I’m back with your usual Tuesday review (I mean, I don’t always review on Tuesday but because I have a lot of other things to do, then I have posted more reviews recently. Anyway.) I read 7 books in 7 days the other week while I was on a school trip, and it was fabulous. This one caught my attention with an Indian setting, but you’ll see what I thought about it if you read below.
Title: The Lost Girl
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Genre: YA dystopia/paranormal?
Themes: Humanity, friendship, death, belonging, trying to avoid your clone’s boyfriend
Cover rating: 2/10 very ugly and doesn’t represent book at all.
Similar to: Hybrid Chronicles, The Body Electric, The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Summary: Eva has spent her whole life repairing to be someone else: her ‘other’, Amarra, who lives across the world in Bangalore. If Amarra ever dies, Eva’s supposed to replace her seamlessly. However, she has a mind of her own and a stubbornness that constantly gets her in trouble. Could Eva survive a new life without the guardians who raised her?
Like I said, the setting initially intrigued me, followed by The Lost Girl’s curious premise. Modern India isn’t a common setting in young adult books, after all, and seeing as I live in India and have been to Bangalore, I was interested to see what it was ll about. The author painted an accurate picture of an Indian city, from the cafes to the malls to the crowded streets and schools, but I couldn’t help feeling that this setting didn’t fulfil its potential. I wanted to see the side of India that makes it different to a western country, like England, the other main setting. In a lot of ways, upper class Indian teenagers at international schools live very similar lives to teenagers in developed countries, but I wished the different experiences of lower class Indians (for example, India’s devastating poverty, or the cows on the roads, or the random holy monuments everywhere) had been highlighted more.
The premise was fascinating: a London guild of Weavers design clone-like humans to replace others. Parents can basically order these ‘echoes’ to replace their beloved children if their child dies. It didn’t feel sci-fi, but more like modern steampunk. the weavers who created Eva have been doing their thing for 200 years, so while there wasn’t the sic-fi feel of books like The Adoration of Jenna Fox, it returned to the age-old question: what makes a human? Eva’s narrative voice certainly sounds human, Eva looks and acts human, but she is made, not born. Part of her consciousness is someone else’s; she’s supposed to be Amarra, but she isn’t. Her headstrong uniqueness makes her someone else.
Eva was interesting. Like I said, she had a clear voice, but I didn’t really connect to a lot of her problems. I liked the love interests Sean and Ray (it’s not really a love triangle), but at the same time even the interesting secondary characters felt one-sided (except Matthew, a Weaver, who was…complicated.)
This book required several suspensions of disbelief. For example, 3/4 members of Amarra’s family know Eva isn’t their daughter/sister. But they’re totally chill with her living with them-they even like her, even though her appearance (and existence) constantly reminds them that Amarra is dead. At another point (avoiding spoilers), Amarra’s parents agree for something really horrible to happen to Eva. Everybody knows about it, but then Eva’s perfectly happy staying with them? And at the end of the book, after a lot of drama, she agrees to go back and live with them. It makes no sense.
The Lost Girl is divided into 4 parts: one that is primarily exposition/background, another when the setting changes, essentially a second set of background and introductions. Some things start happening in the third part, but the greatest amount of plot is crammed in the last section super dramatically. Maybe this is just me, but books with too much beginning and too much plot at the end don’t work for me. It was nice to appreciate the dual settings, but still. The ending was crowded with overdramatic events . I did like that while this functions perfectly as a standalone (I don’t know of a sequel) the ending is open.
Overall, I loved the idea and the setting, but The Lost Girl could have certainly been better executed.
Have you read this? How do you feel about books with settings near/familiar to you? Are they normally accurate? What’s your favourite ‘is this a human’ book?