Review: What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

Monday, August 13, 2012
Author: Kat Zhang
Genre: science fiction, dystopia, young-adult
Series: The Hybrid Chronicles #1
Pages: 245 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected September 18 2012
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 4/5

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t…

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable–hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

This was the perfect novel to bust me out of my bad book reading funk. The majority of last several books I've read had been frustrating, time-consuming, and often, disappointing. Happily, that is far from the case with What's Left of Me. Though this debut novel is far from being free of all errors, Kat Zhang's first novel in the Hybrid Chronicles manages to be innovative, engrossing, unique, and affecting. I absolutely could not, and did not want to, put it down; this was another one-day read for me. With shades of The Golden Compass, Never Let Me Go and Unwind, all three of which are among my favorite-ever books, this novel is sure to entertain and engage, all the while making its rapt readers think. This is one of those rare YA novels that could, and does and will, hold a wide appeal for readers of different ages and genre preferences.

There's a lot to recommend about this novel. It's action-packed and also contemplative; it's filled with remarkable, highly individual characters and strong characterization; it's a fresh, innovative concept coupled with great storytelling. I love it wholeheartedly, even with its issues. The few things that missed with What's Left of Me only slightly detract from the overwhelming good about it. There are some sections that could use some tightening, some periods where the fluid pacing gets a bit stuck, but on the whole, this is a great book. One I would easily and happily push on my fellow bloggers, friends, and family. I felt that the ending was a bit rushed, with some key plot points left too vague and undetailed (the surgery, the tech, the drugs, etc.), but I was left with a unquenchable need for the second book as soon I as I metaphorically turned the last page.

 The dystopian elements of the world shown are bare, and sketched in only slightly more as the story progresses, but I... didn't mind all that much. I often harp on worldbuilding, especially with fantasy and dystopian novels, and while What's Left of Me left some principle explanations missing in action, the characters and the plot of the novel more than made up for the lack. This is a solid, well-constructed novel and while the book's momentum hits a few snags as it moves quickly along, the emotion and relationship I had invested/built in Addie/Eva's struggle for life was more than enough to keep me fully engrossed. The other characters are almost uniformly remarkable and well-rounded, highly individual even in their twinned souls, but it was the two main characters that meant the most to me. 

A few other quibbles: I found the main antagonist of the novel to be rather weak, and sadly one-dimensional in his presentation. I wished for more of a presence for him, felt that would have added more of a sense of tension to the atmosphere of the book, and for what he represented for the hybrids, but that never materialized.  I also thought that the "twist" revealed at the end was a bit too open-ended and an obvious lead to buy the next book and it felt superfluous to the already-engaging plot of the novel. But like I said, these are minor complaints in the face of all the awesome shown and revealed here in What's Left of Me.

This is a great novel; entertaining and horrific at the same time. It's one that I will be buying a finished copy of as soon as it is available, because rereads of What's Left of Me are going to be necessary.  I'm very impressed with Zhang's storytelling ability, as well as her obvious talent for innovative, creative plots and for crafting real, flawed, human characters. Read this book, especially if you're a fan of Unwind, Never Let Me Go and The Golden Compass -- for once the hype and the comparisons are dead on. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Also: I have to note that the cover is completely perfect. Two people in one body? Creepy, awesome, eye-catching. This is not one to miss, for many reasons!


  1. Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Jessie! I've seen so many positive reviews for this one, so I'm very excited about its release! It sounds absolutely captivating and I'm glad that the slight lack of world-building didn't bother you as that is something that usually bothers me a lot too, except in a few situations. Wonderful review, Jessie! You've definitely made me want to read this one ASAP! ;)

    1. It was a surprise how much the lack of worldbuilding didn't bother me! There seems to be a pretty big omission - why hybrids are so evil/bad - but the storyline more than made up for it.
      Thank you, Keertana! I hope you read and love it!

  2. gr8 review. i can;t wait to read it

    1. Thanks very much, roro! I hope you grab a copy soon and enjoy it as much as I did!

  3. The cover is fantastic!! I'm definitely adding this to the TBR -- you've sold me. It sounds twisted/awesome!

    1. I love the cover! It took me a couple glances to see the 2 people in one picture, but once I did I thought it was perfect. And yes! Read it! Your review on it would be epic, I think!


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