A second chance for the voice in their head
In a world where every body is born with two souls—one dominant that will grow into maturity and one that will simply fade away in early childhood—Eva’s future was always meant to be brief. Her sister Addie would have a first kiss, learn to drive a car and start a family of her own, and Eva would die somewhere around the time they learned to read. But Eva doesn't die. When both souls survive, they become hybrid, something dangerous and banned. By the time they start high school, they’ve convinced everyone Eva is gone, but really she's just paralyzed, a voice in Addie's ear with no power over their body. And she’s resigned herself to that fate—until they meet two other teenage hybrids who offer her the chance to share control again. The promise is so incredible, Eva ignores the dangers until it’s too late.
Debut author Kat Zhang uses this alternate reality to create an intense instance of teenage alienation and powerlessness. Watching a crush from afar when social constructions or strict parents stand in the way can be frustrating, but the inability to tell them how you feel because you have no control over your own mouth would be excruciating. Zhang does a terrific job in capturing Eva's hopelessness with her situation and, later, her awakened longing for a life of her own.
The novel's only fumble is its attempt to encompass both the intimate story of two sisters’ secret and the much larger story of a society keeping secrets. The story of the girls' struggle for survival is so overpowering that when Zhang includes a revelation about the government, it doesn't have the shock value it should.
The strength of What's Left of Me lies in the character development, and Eva's efforts are so compelling the reader will be left thinking about her long after they’ve closed the book.
Molly Horan has her MFA in writing for children and young adults from The New School and is currently working on her first YA novel.