What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang. ★★★
What’s Left of Me is a YA alternate history dystopia. In the world of the book, everyone is born with twin souls – one body contains two people. As time goes on, you are expected to “settle,” to have one soul become dominant and the other fade away. But Eva, a non-dominant soul, refuses to give up her grasp on life. Her sister Addie lies and says that Eva has gone, but in reality Eva is still trapped within. Eva and Addie are a hybrid, in a society that views them as unstable and dangerous. If they are found out, they will be institutionalized. Then Eva is given the chance to potentially learn how to move their body, and she would do anything to experience freedom.
“We’d been born with our souls’ fingers interlocked. What if we’d never let go?”
There were some interesting ideas going on in What’s Left of Me, but I don’t feel like they were ever fully developed. For one, there’s a lot of vagaries when it comes to the world building, such as why exactly the government hates hybrids and how the government came to be. Possibly the government focuses on hybrids because they want to give the populace an outside threat? But what are they distracting the rest of society from?
Addie and Eva live in an alternate history of North America. The rest of the world (besides possibly South America?) is almost entirely hybrid, which ties into the society’s fear of foreigners and very limited immigration. Two supporting characters are mixed race and hybrids. They have it a lot worse than Addie and Eva due to the intersection. Those two characters make me wonder if the “two souls” could be a metaphor for the immigrant experience, but I think there’s a lot of things you could argue the premise of the book is metaphorical for.
The most important relationship in the book is the one between Eva and Addie. This is how it should be given that the sisters share a body and are constantly with each other. The two do fight at times but neither can imagine living without the other. Although the relationship between the sisters got the most focus, there was a little bit of romance, which feels obligatory for a YA novel these days.
Besides the vagaries in the world building, the biggest problem with What’s Left of Me is that the plot just isn’t very climatic or exciting. It leaves me with no intentions of ever reading the next book in the series.
If you’re looking for a YA dystopia, you could do worse than What’s Left of Me. While the execution leaves something to be desired, at least there’s an interesting idea at the heart of it.