Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

The Lost GirlBook: The Lost Girl
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Publication Date: August 28th, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: 4 Stars

Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination--an echo. She was made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her "other," if she ever died. Eva spends every day studying that girl from far away, learning 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 sixteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything and everyone 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.

But I don’t have a sword. My shield is broken. I don’t know what is and isn’t honorable anymore. And now I’ve sent my knight away.

It took me a long time to finally get to reading this book, but I guess the wait was worth it. I've hear raving reviews about it for a long time, but when I initially read the blurb, it didn't really appeal to me. After all, we've already seen lots of stories about girls who switch spots in life. True, there's a more supernatural twist added to this premise, but not enough to change the supposed outcome (girl adjusts to new life, finds new boy to love, makes friends that she never would've made otherwise, etc). Really, it should have all the elements of a feel-good chick lit.

But that's not what The Lost Girl is about. It's comprised of three parts. In the first, we learn about Eva's peaceful life in a cottage beside a lake, surrounded by people who love her but always with the looming concern that one day, she will have to serve her purpose. She exists for another person, and it's difficult because she must imitate every facet of her Other's lifestyle. In this part, I really appreciated the kindness that humans are capable of, especially in the way Eva's guardians behave. Although they follow the rules, the small allowances they make are what endeared me to them. Sean, especially, is wonderfully portrayed as logical but sweet. In my opinion, the first part is the best portion of the book: Eva's world and her conflict is beautifully portrayed, and the way it all comes screeching to a halt adds to the drama.

In the second part, Eva adjusts to her new life. What I loved about this was her frequent memories of her old life and the bittersweet nostalgia that those memories are tinged with. I liked her new family, and I thought there was a nice balance between their belief and disbelief that Amarra was still alive. It was relatively normal and typical, until she starts breaking the rules. The third part is when she finally goes on the run.

What stands out about this book is not its idea, but rather the way it's executed. The emotions running through it--desperation, hope, desire--are almost tangible. Each character is well-written, though maybe not as three-dimensional as I'd hoped. I can't say I absolutely loved the book, but I liked the precision that characterized its structure. I couldn't really get sucked in because I was always dubious about the idea of having an echo replace a loved one. What kind of person could convince him/herself that a copy is the same as the original?

At any rate, I enjoyed the book, especially the sweet love story and Eva's struggle for freedom. It's not the most intricate plot I read, but I definitely think this is a worthy debut.

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1 comment:

  1. Great Review! :D
    I agree with you that the book's execution is brilliant. The emotional quotient of the book is really high. I'm glad you enjoyed it too.