Category Archives: Dystopian

19) What’s Left of Me

By: Kat Zhang

Date Finished: 10.27.13

by Kat Zhang

Eva shouldn’t exist.  She should have faded a decade ago and allowed Addie full occupation of their body and brain.  But Eva’s soul lingered as she relinquished her claim on their shared motor function, allowing Addie to be accepted as a healthy American.  Even though everyone believes that Eva is gone, they are haunted by the fear of discovery.  It’s more fact than rumor that suspected hybrids – people with both souls intact past childhood – are whisked away by the government and never heard from again.  Despite the dangers, when Eva is given the opportunity to move again, she convinces Addie to take it.

My impression of this book is very similar to my response to Divergent.  Like Veronica Roth, Zhang is a young author (I believe even younger than Roth) and this is her first published book.  Like Divergent, it is solid writing and features a recognizable-but-not-cliché plot.  And, like Divergent, it is a well done book, but not phenomenal.  All told, I think I enjoyed this one more simply because it stays away from the angsty romance.  (There is a spark between Eva and one of the other hybrids, which I imagine will become more prominent as the series continues, but it doesn’t distract like it does in Divergent.)

Eva plays her role of narrator well, with a strong voice and a nice sense of pacing.  Since Eva is the storyteller and Addie is in control of their body, I had the instinct to resent Addie at the beginning.  As the book continued, my appreciation and respect of Addie grew significantly and I was equally fascinated by both girls.  Even though they share a body, Eva and Addie have distinctive personalities and their interactions are much like any pair of sisters.  With this highly relate-able relationship, it was easy to suspend my disbelief and dive into the story.

I greatly appreciate how Zhang reveals only what the reader needs to know.  She has created a unique history for this version of America, but refrains from bogging the book down with too many details.  Throughout, she manages to keep it simple whenever possible —  a refreshing feature for this inherently complicated construct.  What’s Left of Me is a promising start in this young writer’s repertoire.  I look forward to seeing where she goes from here.

At the end of the day: For me.

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5) Divergent

Book One of the Divergent series

By: Veronica Roth

Date Finished: 04.26.13

by Veronica Roth

In this post-apocalyptic setting, society has divided itself into five factions, each valuing one character trait over all others.  From birth, they are taught the mantra “faction before blood” because the system only works if the people don’t divide their devotions.  In this world, the worst thing you can be is Divergent, that is equally suited for more than one faction.  The Divergent are the ones who might question and consequently disrupt the constructs of this society.  Even before taking her aptitude test, Beatrice is torn between her desire to remain with her family and the lure of another faction.  The test reveals her Divergence and is warned to keep this fact hidden.  After committing to the faction of her choice, Beatrice discovers the danger that awaits her if anyone learns her secret — and the danger that awaits them all if she keeps silent.

Beatrice is a likable narrator with an admirable lack of physical prowess (sometimes these hardcore heroines are a little too superhuman when it comes to learning new skills).  She narrates in present tense, which doesn’t work for this particular book — I never could get used to it — but otherwise I liked her voice.  You do get a bit more teenage angst than I’d prefer, but it comes with the territory and it’s not overwhelming.  In addition to a sympathetic narrator, Roth provides a varied and interesting supporting cast and some lovely family moments.

I’ll be honest, the opening lacked luster.  I was a little concerned about the pace throughout the first chapter or so, but it picked up quickly and paid off pretty well.  The story draws you in rather gently and I enjoyed theorizing about it when I wasn’t reading.  Sadly, the ending was inelegantly abrupt, not setting-up-suspense-for-the-sequel abrupt.  I do plan to read the sequel, but I wish the ending had been stronger.

Overall, this book is good.  It’s not breath-taking, it’s certainly not bad, but there just isn’t that spark.  Worth the read?  Yes.  Although, it’s fine if it stays near the middle of your reading list.

At the end of the day: For me