What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang
This books just ties you up in knots.
In a world where everyone is born with two souls in one body it is forbidden to mention the less dominant soul’s name. It’s expected that eventually the less dominant soul will disappear and the body will be left with the one soul. However, some souls just don’t fade and when you’ve grown up with a whole extra soul – another person inside of you – how can you let them go? Enter Addie and Eva, and this is their dilemma – should Eva fade away and leave Addie to enjoy life as a single soul in a single body, or should they risk everything to stay together in a world where to have two souls is to be an abberration?
This is a book of moral dilemmas – if you like a book that leaves you in a quandry, this is the one for you! How do you deal with two souls on one body? I mean, the question essentially is who has more right to life? The dominant soul (Addie), or the less dominant soul (Eva)? Should Addie stay dominant and lose Eva, since she’s clearly the survivor of the the two souls, or should Eva get a chance at the life she’s hung onto so desperately? Or, should the girls’ keep hiding their symbiotic lives and just pretend they’re not the monster their society paints dual-souled people out to be?
You see what I mean? Absolutely mind-curling.
As the story develops and the sisters come closer and closer to being discovered you begin to find yourself taking sides. You find yourself seeing Addie’s point of view more, or you secretly think Eva should have more freedom than she does. Before long you find yourself flipflopping helplessly between favouring one girl over the other. You really feel for Eva, who exists but whose name isn’t even mentioned outside of Addie’s head by Eva’s mother and father. She’s a girl who exists, but has been forcibly stricken from her family’s record by the family itself. For a few chapters it seems that Addie has got the better part of the deal. But then in the next chapter you find yourself really feeling for Addie, who suffers the constant guilt of having to hide her sister and knowing that she’s free to act as she pleases whilst Eva can’t even control the body her soul resides in. It’s such a complicated situation and neither girl has the best of it and it leaves you, the reader, in a real state of anxiety for them. Then you realise that by flipflopping between sisters you’re actually doing what the book’s protagonists are doing – deciding who has more right to a life, which is clearly wrong. Like I said – mind curling.
As the story unwinds and more characters are introduced the moral dilemmas just keep coming. In an argument that’s not a million miles away from some of the ethical arguments currently in full swing in our own society, the Government decides that if a recessive soul doesn’t fade away of it’s own accord it should be made to. This presents yet another dilemma – do parents give up their own children in order to ‘save’ them from the hideous nature of being dual-souled? Or do they remmeber that one of those souls was a little girl they once cherished as much as the dominant soul and refuse to give them both up? Do they give up one former-daughter, or secretly keep two?
I’ve not done the best job of persuading you to this book I think. I first read this because I saw that it had had a fair amount of chatter on Twitter and a couple of my coworkers had read it and absolutely loved it. After reading it I can certainly see why. It reminds me a little of The Hunger Games in the sense that Eva and Addie are essentially fighting for their right to survival but it’s far more complicated than that. It’s a multi-layered novel and it’s one that I could easily see being used to prompt some great classroom discussions. It’s crying out for a sequel and I know that I at least need a little bit of closure as to what happens to Addie and Eva. Well worth a read, especially if you like a book that’ll leave you thinking about it once you’ve turned the last page.
Find What’s Left of Me here.
EDIT: There is a sequel! Once We Were is here.