Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna: review

Goodreads rating: 4.21
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Source: ARC from ALA

Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her “other”, if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it’s like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything she’s ever known—the guardians who raised her, the boy she’s forbidden to love—to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.

From debut novelist Sangu Mandanna comes the dazzling story of a girl who was always told what she had to be—until she found the strength to decide for herself.

I wished desperately that this book would pick up, but alas it was never meant to be. The Lost Girl is an odd retelling-but-not of Frankenstein. Eva, which is the name our Echo has given herself (and about a quarter of the way through the book by the way) was an interesting and relatable character. She's basically stitched-together human parts with a bit of her other's soul, a girl Eva would replace if she were to die. No one believes the replacement is ever going to happen. Not Eva, not Mina Ma (Eva's main guardian), not Erik (another guardian who's close to Eva's Weaver) and Ophelia (her guardian who's the daughter of one of the other weavers). And especially not Sean, who Eva has feelings for but can't have because it's forbidden by Weaver law. She must learn to be just like Amarra, her other, and that includes getting a tattoo and cutting her hair the same. When Amarra finally admits to having a boyfriend she loves, now Eva must force herself to love him too. Neither Eva or Amarra is very happy about this (Amarra pretty much hates Eva). Then the unthinkable happens and Eva must leave to replace Amarra. The mother believes Amarra's still there inside of Eva, the father doesn't, and the little brother and sister see Eva as Eva and not as their sister that they know is dead. There's something to be said about the innocence and honesty of a child in this book, which I loved.

It could be argued that there was a love triangle, but not really. Eva fell in love with Sean long before she had to leave, but since they really couldn't be together after she had to replace Amarra, she'd grown fond of Ray (Amarra's boyfriend that she's meant to love), who had no idea that Eva was an Echo. It's illegal to be an Echo, so if she slipped and someone found out, she would have to face the council of Weavers and probably die. It was torture when Eva was away from Sean, and seeing her with Ray wasn't much better. I kind of wished she had tried harder with Ray, but he never truly trusted that Eva was Amarra and so he was holding himself back. But then Eva slips up in front of him and he figures out what she is. Now Eva's life is on the line. More than that, Amarra made sure before she died that Eva would eventually meet her demise. And Amarra's parents, while having grown fond of Eva, want to do this last thing for their daughter. Then, unexpectedly, Sean turns up again. And so do the Echo hunters.

The Lost Girl had great character development, especially with Amarra's younger siblings. They pretty much made the book for me. They saw through who Eva was pretending to be, but still respected her and even grew to love her. And she grew to love them. Amarra's mother was also an artist like Eva was, which is why she grew to love Eva as well. This was a story of finding yourself and holding on to who you are. It was a story of boundless love and twisted scientists and of kept promises. The Lost Girl is a wonderful debut full of heart and ache. It was a slow-paced novel, but I really loved what I got out of it. 


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