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on November 25, 2012
Several of my author friends were gushing about this book, and I just knew I had to move it up on my to read list. Boy, am I glad I did.

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang is about Hybrids-- specifically Eva and Addie. There is typically a dominant and recessive soul in each body and Eva is the recessive soul. She is supposed to disappear by their 5th birthday, but she hangs on, determined to live. But because of this, they are different from the rest of the population, and hide their secret from even their loved ones. Then they meet Hally, someone just like them-- and their world changes forever.

I can't even imagine the complexity of writing this book. To clarify what I mean is-- you have two souls inhabiting one body. There are references to Addie saying something, but then when she does something, it is talked about in the collective plural "we." The connotation was always clear and I never saw a misstep, but what a difficult way to write-- very impressive. Eva is a terrific character, as is Addie, and Zhang does a wonderful job of keeping a balance between the two. The pace of the novel is lightning quick, and I kept turning the pages faster and faster to see what would happen. I loved how three dimensional all of the characters were-- and what a feat to keep each half so distinct and separate.

I am curious about the world building because it is not clear what happened before-- why there are Hybrids, etc. But the ending of this first entry in what is likely to be a trilogy hints there is much more up Zhang's sleeve.

A terrific first book for Zhang-- and I'm eager to pick up the next book in this series!
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on September 18, 2012
~A big thanks to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this ARC!~

When I requested this on Edelweiss, I thought I'd make a big mistake. I already had a have-but-need-to-read list of 20 books. At least 7 of those were books I had to review. Some of them I'd had from NetGalley since the previous month and needed to be read YESTERDAY. But I thought "...what the heck?" Then it came through and I thought, "What have I done, I can't read this fast enough to get the review done in time!"

I finished this in one afternoon. I couldn't have put it down even when my mother asked me to.

The premise is just as interesting as it sounds. I drank up every little detail about it, and there was lots of that. In places it was a little infodump-ish, but I didn't mind. Zhang had so many layers built into this world that I never even dreamed of. After all, who would think to go PAST a world where two souls start out in every body? That's got enough going for it as it is. But Zhang also added a global element to this book. The setting is in a dystopian United States, where the Americas are supposedly cut off from the rest of the world because hybrids are burning up every other continent with their wars. This aspect was only mentioned briefly, but it opens up the other books in this series for literally a world of possibilities that are very intriguing.

The characters of Eva and Addie were also very well done. It was always easy to tell who was talking and thinking, because they did have a slightly different way of talking and acting. I also loved how yet another level of the plot was Eva and Addie's constant battle and pact with each other. After all, they are two parts of the same whole, yet they are two different people. It would have been so easy to make Addie seem evil for not wanting Eva to take control, but Zhang gives you just enough of each girl so that you are emotionally invested in both their sides of the argument and there is no black and white.

The plot never stopped moving. Eva and Addie had to roll with so many punches that just kept coming and coming and coming. I wasn't particularly shocked by any of them, but Zhang's impeccable writing kept my heart rate up the whole time. Even in moment's where it seems like the plot is slowing down, your nerves aren't because you just KNOW something is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER.

Somehow, this plot is also devoid of some of my "favorite" clichés. Insta-love? Addie and Eva never had the freaking time, they were too busy trying to survive. Love triangles? I thought it would be way too easy to fall into this, what with two people inhabiting a bunch of bodies and all, but Zhang didn't lower herself to that, either. Instead, the small fraction of romance in this book was done spectacularly well, yet somehow made me feel so sad for both Addie and Eva at the same time. (No, I won't tell you which one is in love. Read it and find out!)

Basically, this book is everything I want a book to be, which makes it really hard to write a review about it. It had plenty of action, a fantastic premise, impeccable writing and great characters. It lacked any YA love clichés and wasn't romance focused, though it did include romance that I actually enjoyed. I have nothing left to say besides READ THIS BOOK ASAP!
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on September 18, 2012
(I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins publishers, and Edelweiss.)
15-year-old Addie lives in a world where every baby is born with two souls; two different consciousness' living in the same body and mind. Between the ages of 5 and 10, every child loses their second soul, in a process known as `settling'. The dominant soul fully takes control of the body, and the recessive soul simply fades away.

Addie is unusual in that she didn't settle until she was 12. A fact that nearly cost her her life, but what nobody knows is that while Addie has full control of her body, her sister Eva still lives on within her mind. Addie/Eva are what is known as a hybrid, and in the USA this is basically illegal, if they are caught they will be experimented on or killed, so Addie says nothing, and Eva remains trapped in her own body.

When a girl at school Hally reveals herself to Addie as a hybrid too and tries to get Addie to admit that Eva never disappeared, Addie wonders if it is a trick, but Eva is desperate to find out if she could get her control back and no longer have to live imprisoned in her body.

Unfortunately though, Hally manages to get herself sent to an institution for hybrids, and tells the people there Addie's secret, meaning that Addie is taken too, and must now find a way out, before the people there try to take Eva away from her forever.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the relationship between Addie and Eva, and felt sorry for poor Eva being totally unable to exert control over her own body. Eva was such a strong character, stronger even than Addie who was supposedly the `dominant' soul. She hung on in there, desperate to hang onto life, not wanting to fade away, always wanting to experience more, even when everybody told her that she should be gone already.
I felt sorry for Eva in the way that she was treated, even by Addie, who at one point blames their hybrid status on Eva, because if Eva had just let herself fade away like she should have, Addie would be normal.
I also felt sorry for the other children at the institute who were being experimented on. It was so terrible how their other halves were being ripped away from them, and how they were told that they were sick and wrong because they were hybrids.

I really don't understand how people could possibly live with this kind of torture! Having a child who has two separate personalities inside, naming them different names, and then having to live with the knowledge that at some point one of them will basically cease to exist! I also find it very difficult to imagine living with someone else in your head, and having to share a body, but also, if you had had someone else in your head since birth, how would it be to have them disappear and be no longer there! The grief that the children felt about the loss of their twin was just so poignant, and sad.

I did find it quite strange initially that the story was told from Eva's point of view, but this wasn't an issue once I got into the story, and it was interesting to see things from Eva's point of view. I did find it a bit confusing at times though when Eva referred to things as `ours' - our arm, our sock etc. I also cringed every time Addie accidentally said `us' instead of I; convinced that they were going to give themselves away!

The whole idea of two souls in one body, and the way one was dominant did massively remind me of `The Host' by Stephenie Meyer, even though the story itself wasn't similar. The way that the two different people communicated and had different ideas and desires, was very similar though - not that this was a bad thing.

The story was well paced, and the finale was so tense! My heart was racing, my hands were shaking, and I was silently begging `They've got to make it, they've got to make it!'
There was a little touch of romance, but nothing too much, I'm guessing that this might be explored more in future books.

Overall; I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the next books in the series! If you love dystopian YA, you'll love this!
8.75 out of 10.
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on January 26, 2013
What's Left of Me was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year. I absolutely loved the premise, even if I was a bit wary of the science behind it, and I couldn't wait to read it.

And now here we are and sadly, I didn't love it as much as I'd hoped I would.

It started out great. I was immediately sympathetic to Addie and Eva and their situation, though I do wish as the novel had gone on that the complexity of their relationship and dynamic had been better explored. We get bits and pieces of it here and there and while those pieces are good, I wanted a lot more. Still, what we had was sweet and heartbreaking, and there are always more chances for it to be explored in later books.

I was enjoying the book up until Hally and Devon, two other hybrids who offer to teach Eva how to regain control of her body, give Addie some tea that's laced with a drug that'll put her to sleep without her permission. They drug her without her consent, two people who are offering to help her and who are supposed to be her friends. Given that Addie agreed to come to them and learn how to let Eva take control, why couldn't they have asked her to just take the tea, tell her what it would have done and prepared her for it? Forcibly drugging her only broke her already shaky trust in them. This scene bothered me intensely when I read it, and the more I thought about it, the less sense it made. Why do this? Was it to make Eva's eventual success at saying something more dramatic? To make the writing easier? It wouldn't teach Addie how to let go and let Eva have control, seeing as how Addie's asleep during this entire thing. Eva would be learning how to control her body, but Addie wouldn't be learning how to let her when she's awake.

And while there is a mention of how this effects Addie, there's little to no fallout from it. Addie continues to see Hally and Devon for Eva's sake, and Eva's so overjoyed at having talked that she doesn't really seem to contemplate how terrifying the ordeal must have been for Addie. And given that the fact that Hally stole the drug they used from her mother's hospital was later used as evidence against Addie and Eva to take them away, it felt like an overly convenient plot device that wasn't entirely successful.

Still, I kept reading because I was still interested in Addie and Eva's plight. I wanted to see how things unraveled. The novel is very engrossing and addicting and the prose is readable, making a hundred pages fly by easily. It definitely kept me reading even when I was irritated with it.

The science at times was a little shaky--the drug used to suppress the dominant soul so the recessive could take over doesn't really hold up to deep thought. If it affects the brain, then it should also keep the recessive soul asleep as well. Eva doesn't have her own separate brain that wouldn't be unaffected by the drugs. The clinic they're both eventually sent to also has some technology that can somehow tell if a person is a hybrid, and it's not really explained how. It just is. The same problem exists for the hatred against the hybrids; we're told they're dangerous but we're not really told why, and everyone goes along with it. While there were some good points to this, like the government making up stories of the powers hybrids have to turn other people against them, it was a weak point.

Another weak point was, at times, it seemed like everyone had a little too much freedom. The book is listed as a dystopia and it does have strong elements of that, but Addie and her friends are able to talk about their hybridness out in public, in the complete open, and nothing comes from that. While they're very short conversations, I couldn't help but feel that if the dystopia was as strong as it should have been, they wouldn't have risked talking about it in public or in the open at all.

And then we get to the big reveal of what the government does to people to kill the recessive soul, and the worst point of the book for me.

Addie and Eva find out that the government kills the recessive soul by using the drug Hally used to put Addie to sleep, by putting it into vaccinations that everyone receives. This is, of course, done without the knowledge of the general public and they're told it's natural for the recessive soul to simply die off. This is actually a very clever and good idea, and I would have gladly gone along with it.

Except we're currently living in a country that's got a very strong anti-vaccination backlash going on. I'm not going to comment or say what the author believes in, as it's not my place and I don't know her personal views. However, I strongly question the wisdom in including this sort of plot device in a book aimed at young teens that seems to uphold the anti-vaccination view, which is that getting vaccinations will do more harm to children than good. The last thing that opinion needs is more encouragement, especially as we're already facing some of the affects of it: Parents are refusing to vaccinate their children, causing them to get sick, causing other children to get sick, and causing older people who the vaccinations have weakened on to get sick as well.

It makes sense, in the world of the story. But I found it an intensely uncomfortable plot device to use and message to send. It seriously hurt my opinion of the story, which I had still been enjoying up until that point. Especially where this is concerned, I think you need to be intensely aware of the message you're sending out to your readers.

I didn't entirely hate What's Left of Me, but there were several issues that kept me from truly loving it like I had hoped. I may still read the rest of the series, because I'm still interested in seeing how Addie and Eva's story unfolds. But I'm going to be very, very wary of doing so in the future.
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on September 19, 2012
This book took some getting used to, because of the unnatural (yet accurate for the story) use of pronouns and verb conjugations. Because there are two people sharing one body, you get paragraphs like this:

"Kind of," Addie said. She managed to keep our voice bland despite Hally's dogged high spirits, but our fingers tugged at the bottom of our blouse. It had fit at the beginning of the year, when we'd bought all new uniforms for high school, but we'd grown taller since then. Our parents hadn't noticed, not with -- well, not with everything that was happening with Lyle -- and we hadn't said anything.

"Want to come over?" Hally said.

Addie's smile was strained. As far as we knew, Hally had never asked anyone over.

- page 8, What's Left of Me

Keeping in mind that all those "our"s and "we"s are talking about two individuals sharing the same body. Sometimes Addie acts independently of Eva, sometimes they act together. Sometimes people are addressing both of them, sometimes just one. You'd think it would be really confusing, but it's not once you get used to it. I do, however, feel sorry for Kat's editor. Grammarcheck would have had a hard time with this one.

I really liked that this story was told from the perspective of Eva, the recessive soul. It was fascinating watching Eva and Addie's sibling dynamic, when one of them had only a voice and no body. They could communicate with each other, but Eva couldn't speak with their voice to anyone else. So lots of times, Eva sat helplessly inside their body, urging Addie toward a course of action, only to have to suffer the consequences when Addie made a different choice.

Although it wasn't a major plot point of the book, I was completely fascinated by the family dynamics in the book. Eva and Addie's parents both, at some point during their lives, tell them that they love both of them. But at the same time, they urge Eva to fade away, and for Addie to assert her dominance. It's such a weird and challenging concept -- how should a parent's love be affected by having two children inhabiting the same body? And should they mourn the "death" of one for the good of the other, or should they simply accept it as the way life works? Eva, obviously, feels hurt by the withdrawal of her parents' affection -- from her, not Addie -- even as she tries to tell herself it's normal for them to stop talking to her. Again, this isn't actually a huge part of the story, but it was such an interesting question to me.

And the question necessarily expands to intertwine with the main narrative. Should one soul be forced to fade away, or do both have a right to share the body? And if both souls have equal rights to the body, who gets to choose what they do? If one soul is romantically attracted to someone and the other is not, which gets to follow their heart?

As Eva and Addie struggle with these philosophical questions, they have to deal with the physical problem of being taken and incarcerated if their hybrid nature is discovered. And so in addition to the internal struggle, there is a lot of external action, adventure, and peril. Even a touch of romance, although that too becomes a delicate and challenging situation. It's a great mix, and I was completely sucked in.

Eva's narration is sparse but effective, and the storytelling flowed nicely. There's still some huge questions at the end of the book, but it's not a cliffhanger. Truthfully, I don't know if it's possible to fully and neatly answer all of the questions raised by this book, so in that way, it would actually work as a standalone (even though it's the first of a trilogy). Oh, and although it's being touted as a dystopian, it's really not. Nor is it really sci-fi. More of an alternate reality. It's one of those books that's kind of hard to define, which I think actually broadens its appeal.

Although I actually have no tangible complaints with this book, I'm not giving it an A rating. This seems weird, but basically, I felt like there was room for something more, either more connection with the characters or more insight into this strange world. It's not that I think the book did anything wrong, it's that I feel there's potential for better. Because I thought this book was really good, but it didn't completely knock me off my feet. I feel like it could, and I'm almost expecting that from the sequel. But while this one was highly enjoyable, it didn't quite crack that amorphous bubble that houses my all-time favorites. That said, I still highly recommend it.
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on February 5, 2013
This was an "okay" read for me. I didn't really feel drawn into this story like I was expecting. The concept is intriguing, in which people are born with two souls who are present during their childhood years until one of the souls usually fades away and the dominant one stays behind. When the second soul doesn't vanish away, however, the people are shunned as outcasts, referred to as "hybrids."

I can't quite put into words where this story fell short. I just know I had many pet peeves while reading, some of them minor (like the overuse of the character's name "Addie"), and some of them major (like the predictability). I just didn't find it very convincingly believable. It's been awhile since I read the book, so memory is very fuzzy, but I don't recall being educated about WHY bodies are born with two souls and why is it so horrible to have both of them coexisting? Another problem for me were the inconsistencies of the main character (Addie/Eva). On one page, they cooperate, then there's a 180 on the next page. It made it feel so...just meh.

There were too many moments of built-up tension and suspense at the end of one chapter being "deflated" rather quickly into the next chapter. There was more than one occasion when the author would end a chapter on an "intense" note, and when you eagerly flip to the next chapter, she kills it, and then you just drag on through the chapter. For instance, a scene that consisted of a kid having a weapon ended when the weapon was dropped and the "enemy" of the scene spots it. So you'd think the next chapter would start with a bang, a wrestling match, or something. But instead, the "enemy" had already acquired the weapon with no issues from the kid, and all he did was send the kid to be locked in their room with only kicking and flailing being the "action." There were plenty of moments like that when the chapter ends on a high note, and then the next begins on a low note.

Another problem I had is probably due to my own preference as a reader of what writing style I like. In this read, there was a lot of overuse of words and/or phrases. I'm sure there's a term for it, but I'm not sure. It's like speaking in this sort of context: "The kite went up, up, up higher!" or "The dog barked, barked, barked at the cat." or "I kept running, running, running until I was tired" or "The sound was getting louder and louder." But I admit that's my own nitpickiness in stories I read. I found it distracting. The two souls in the main character's body just weren't very interesting, nor were their interactions convincing to me that they are really siblings sharing one body.

But anyway, I know this isn't really a useful review. Just my general take on this book. It was pretty much forgettable, and didn't intrigue me enough to continue the series, unfortunately. Personally, I enjoyed "The Host" much more (when it comes to dual characters in one body). To each their own!
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I always see and hear people complaining about how over used plots and story lines are in Dystopian novels these days. I'm here to let you know that I have never read nor heard of anything like What's Left of Me. It's so unique in every single way and I fell in love with this book from the moment I started reading!

I feel like this review might be a bit shorter than others because I don't want to give any of this story away. It was so good for me I feel like you just need to read it to find out about Eva and Addie's story. I found this book while searching on Goodreads one day and I am so glad I did. It's such a beautiful story about two souls just trying to be there own even though they fear losing each other and everything they care about all while trying to help others along the way. At first I thought What's Left of Me was just going to be a book about Eva trying to gain control of her and Addie's body again but it wasn't, thank God! It was so much more! Zhang kept surprising me with crazy, but awesome, twists and turns. I was never bored and literally couldn't put this book down, I had to force myself to go to bed and by then it was already four in the morning! The characters were all really rounded, although we didn't get to know all of them fully I feel like we were given the right amount of information about all of them to want to read the second book and find out more. I love both Eva and Addie, at first I thought Addie was being really selfish but at one point in the book Zhang helps us realize how unfair the situation is for her too. Even though she is the one who is the most dominant soul, she still is never alone just like Eva and she still was willing to risk literally everything so Eva could gain some control back somehow. I think that is very brave of Addie to do and I was so proud to see her grow and mature and be so selfless throughout the book for Eva. I also adore Eva because of how patient she was with Addie, she never intentionally tried to push too much and when she did she always apologized and tried to give Addie her space. I also appreciate how both of the characters weren't perfect all the time, they did fight and disagree about things from time to time. At times I thought that Addie would tell Eva they needed to just go back to how it was before but she still pushed through. I feel like the fact that both of them broke down at times made it feel more real for me, no one is perfect and I honestly don't believe they could have both gone through what they did without feeling some kind of negative emotion. I feel like both of them grew closer than they were before and both matured throughout the story and that's one of my favorite things to do; to be able to watch a character grow into a better person. What's Left of Me was easily one of my top five favorite reads of 2012 and I highly recommend you all read this book! I'm looking forward to more of Kat Zhangs work! (:

P.S. Isn't the cover just stunning? The jacket for my book is beautiful.

Favorite Quotes

"Addie was warm and radiant next to me, making up half of us. But I - I was Eva, Eva, Eva, all the way through." - Eva
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on October 4, 2012
WHAT'S LEFT OF ME is a wonderful and great story, a very unique premise, and a well-rounded set of main characters that will make you root for them in any situation they are in. This book is spectacular!

Kat Zhang did a great job at crafting Eva and Addie, our main characters. They respect and love each other, but fight with each other sometimes, like all sisters do. And with the situation they're trapped in, I hoped that nothing bad would happen to them. But of course, everything goes down the drain.

The writing style just blew my mind. Zhang gave her characters such a marvelous voice; each character was depth and complex, and gosh, the dialogue and action that was given to them was just fantastic. I loved every inch of this story.

Some more things that I loved about her writing style was the pieces that I found in this book. One piece was sorrow; I felt so sorry for Eva because of what's she going through, and with everything being thrown at her, it made me want to reach out to her even more. And another theme, and the biggest one, I found was hope. Hope is infused so much in this novel; hope for a better future, hope for a chance to live a life again, hope to stay alive. And I just found it amazing how much hope and sorrow was put into this book. Kat Zhang, you are a genius!

The action in WHAT'S LEFT OF ME was non-stop. I will admit that the first few pages were a slow going, but come on, it's the beginning. And when the action started, it never stopped. All havoc broke loose, and Kat didn't ever stop throwing more problems and action scenes at us. Greatness! WHAT'S LEFT OF ME is one of those books that is super hard to put down. I finished it in under 24 hours!

And before I wrap up this review, let me say this: IS THE AUTHOR TRYING TO EMOTIONALLY KILL ME FOR THE WAIT FOR BOOK TWO?! The ending of WHAT'S LEFT OF ME is just insane and totally terrific. The ending is where the action sky-rocketed, and I don't think I ever set the book down towards the end. Seriously, read this book!

Overall, WHAT'S LEFT OF ME is such a fantastic book! Make sure not to miss this book. WHAT'S LEFT OF ME is going places.

-Review originally posted at bookyareview.blogspot.com-
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on February 13, 2013
There wasn't the best world-building happening here. The premise of two souls inhabiting one body from birth is super original, and I was very excited to read how that would play out. The biggest problem I had was that it was never really explained why hybrids were such a threat to the government. It is mentioned many times throughout the book that the rest of the world is still hybrid, and only Addie and Eva's small portion of the "Americas" has been slowly bred to weed out those hybrids. The government now hunts, imprisons, and experiments on these hybrids that have fallen through the cracks, attempting to 'fix' them. But they don't appear to pose any real threat to anyone. Hybrids don't have any sort of special powers, or super strength - I didn't see one good reason at all for the government to make such a big deal out of them. And the book itself doesn't offer much more explanation than "I'm a hybrid, and that's bad."

Beyond that - it's never really explained how coupling in general would work in the outside world. How do people get married? Do you just hope that both of your twin souls happen to fall in love with both of the twin souls of your spouse? Or what? That part sort of skeeved me out. I didn't necessarily buy that the whole concept itself would ever work anyway.

I did love the relationship between Addie and Eva, the twin souls. They truly were inseparable, and I loved the way that neither would want to exist without the other. Their interactions and the angst between them was so relate-able. Addie, the dominant soul, deals with the guilt of having control over their body, and also struggles with the fact that she can never be truly alone in her own body. The fact that she would want to be alone, just for a moment, makes her feel terrible, because it is essentially saying that she wishes that Eva didn't exist anymore - and that's not what she wants either. And Eva must deal with the fact that she is the dormant soul - she has no control of her own body or voice. She must sit back and watch, trapped, as Addie lives their life.

I really identified with both of the girls. Neither is in a situation I would ever want to find myself in. The inner conflicts they dealt with were heart wrenching.

There's a "major" revelation that happens about halfway through that I wasn't impressed with. I put "major" in quotes, because once again - it just sort of fizzled for me. Given that the rest of the entire planet is still hybrid, more than anything I found myself wondering why Addie and Eva hadn't thought that there was something more going on in their little part of the world. What did they think made them so different? Did she think that they all just happened to be a part of the world whose souls were settling?

It took a while for this book to really speed up. The start was decent, and things did happen in a believable timeline, but it did end up ultimately getting very good. It wasn't until I was about 3/4 of the way through the book that things really started to unfold. But by then, I was convinced that this one had some pretty great potential, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next book.
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on November 20, 2013
This book is very well-written and definitely keeps your interest. The narrator is a recessive soul, Eva, lodged in the shared body of her sister, Addie. In this alternate America, hybrids (the term used for two beings in one body) are forbidden. One must fade away by age ten at the latest. But Eva never faded away and Addie and Eva must keep this secret.

They meet Hally and Devon, brother and sister hybrids who have managed to keep their recessive identities secret, but still allow the recessive soul the ability to move and speak, something that Eva cannot do. Unfortunately, they are found out and taken to a government facility for treatment.

It is stressed in the book that the Americas are the only country that won't allow hybrids. What the reader wonders is how many hybrids are out there? Is everyone born with two souls in one body, or is this an anomaly? This question was never answered to my satisfaction. Also, what are they? I am left to guess because I don't get a full explanation of that either. Are they parasitic or absorbed twins?

Overall, it is a great book.If you like dystopian, you will probably like this.

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