What’s Left of Me: Strangely Unique POV

I love this cover, it’s beautiful. WHAT’S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang

Genre: YA SCI-FI / Dystopian (sort of)
Series: HYBRID CHRONICLE #1 (Only one currently available)
Publisher: HaperTeen September 18, 2012
Author: Kat Zhang (Contributor to Publishing Crawl)

Recommended? Yes! The POV to this story was at first a draw back to me — a MC that can’t really do anything…? — but then it turned out to be so good, so different. It’s premise hasn’t really been done before (that I’m aware of) and even if you’re sick of dystopians, it’s not really focused on that aspect.

Goodread’s Summary:

I should not exist. But I do.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .


At first I though the permise was hard to swallow. An MC that doesn’t have control of her body and is just going to… what? Sit around and not do anything? Just tell us what Addie is doing and urge Addie with her thoughts to do something? Erm… I don’t see much appeal in that. At the same time, I hadn’t heard of a story like this one so I felt compelled to read it anyway.


It did take me a while to get into the story, but it was well worth it. The first hundred pages really just build up to what the story is about. It sets the world for us, gives us background on the strange soul sisters–Eva and Addie–and introduces the important other characters in the story. Granted, Eva doesn’t do much in these first hundred pages but… something about the way the story was told by someone who was in it yet not was strangely different from all the other stories out there. Plus, Zhang hints to the readers early on that Eva won’t just be sitting around doing nothing the entire time. It’s an important promise made to the reader that is kept. It was interesting to note when Zhang would use ‘I/my’ instead of ‘we/us/our’. To get into Eva’s head and see when she thought of herself as a separate being from her sister, Addie, or when she was thinking of them as the same.

When the action starts, I cared enough about all the characters that were involved that I just had to keep reading. The reason behind each decision made sense. The stakes were high for Eva, Addie, and their family. The tension that fills the rest of the book is so thick and real that it pained me every time something bad happened to Eva or Ryan/Devon or Lissa/Hally. There were twists and turns in the plot I didn’t see coming and by the end I was very satisfied. Sometimes starts to series leave the end of the book with some sort of cliffhanger (think ASHES by Bick) and they drive me crazy, but the end to this — while leaving some questions unanswered — also left me with hope. It also could stand alone novel. If this wasn’t a start to a series, I’d still be satisfied with the ending, which is important in my opinion.


The characters in the story were developed well, which must have been difficult to do for Zhang since there were two characters in most of the bodies. There line between Lissa/Hally wasn’t exactly clear to me always, but I never could mistake Ryan for Devon or visa-versa, they were so uniquely different that it was simple to tell them apart.

I did, however, dislike Addie from the start. Perhaps it was because we were in Eva’s head and she unfairly couldn’t do anything and Addie got control of the body but… I just didn’t like her. I understood where she was coming from when she didn’t want to do this or that because of risks and such but… but I still didn’t like her much by the end of the book, either. I just wanted Eva to get control of the body so badly and banish Addie to the side line to watch for years like she had to. I know that’s a bit cruel and all, but that’s what I wanted. I really adored Eva, so I wanted Addie to just get out of the way. Plus, she got in the way of Eva/Ryan, and that bothered me.


There’s some romance in the book, but it’s not heavy by any means. Sometimes that how I like it, there but not there — sort of like in CREWEL. The relationship between Eva and Ryan developed naturally and it wasn’t one of those dumb instant-love relationships either. At least not on Eva’s part, I’m not a hundred percent sure why Ryan clung onto Eva so quickly (since, for most of their relationship, she couldn’t say or do anything around him) but I did understand Eva’s side of it. Ryan was the first one to want to help her. He was sweet, caring, and was there for her when she was trying to get her body back. By the end, I really wanted these two together. I still do.

I think there is potential for an Addie/Devon romance to brew in the future books, which might be interested. I think I’d be on board for that, too, since they are so similar.

I guess the thing about the romance in this book that’s so different than the others out there is the concept behind it. Two characters that long for each other, but really can’t ever be alone together or be together by the other half of them — the sister/brother souls that share their body — don’t want it to be. I mean, how often do you see that? It’s such an interesting twist.


The writing was wonderful, everything flowed, everything made sense in the end and I really fell in love with the book. I can’t wait for the next one. 

Horror (Of Not Writing)

My copy of On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association (edited by Mort Castle)

My copy of On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association (edited by Mort Castle)

Before NaNo2012, I decided to educate myself in how to write horror. The idea I had for my NaNo manuscript was dark and I thought it’d end up either being in the YA Horror genre or the YA Paranormal Thriller one. (I’ve been told it turned out to be Horror because of its overall sinister tone, which is good to know!)

Of course, one of the best ways to learn about a genre is by reading it. I think I mentioned my October Horror Book marathon before on this blog. Most of the books I read were YA (and zombie related, which has nothing to do with the plot of my NaNo story… I just love zombies) and dark, but not all could be considered horror. There’s just really not a huge pool of YA Horror books that you can dive into — though when I heard Laini Taylor talk about DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT, she said the genre is on the verge a huge growth spurt.

Gretchen McNeil is the first YA horror writer that comes to mind for me. I really enjoyed reading her book POSSESS, which was marketed as a Paranormal Thriller but could really go either way. TEN is her latest book and while I have it… I haven’t read it yet — bad me, I know. Another inspiration and most read, I think, is Courtney Summers’ THIS IS NOT A TEST (which I only now realize I didn’t write a review of… I promise to do soon!). It’s a zombie book, but not overtly/grotesquely so even if you aren’t a zombie fan I think you can still enjoy this book. Her voice and the overall tone of the book… it’s just amazing.

Of course I’ve read the classics, like Lovecraft and King, but what I mostly took away from them is how to build suspense and frighten the readers. You can’t really hope to write like either of them in this day and age and think you’ll get away with it. No one could write a book the length King’s usually are, unless they’re already an established writer, plus he gets wordy — nothing wrong with that when you’re a superstar like him, of course. Lovecraft, while a great horror writer, lacked in character development.

While I was looking into writing horror, I came across the Horror Writers Association (they even have a YA Horror section!). After reading through their website, I decided to buy a copy of ON WRITING HORROR to see what they had collected. In my opinion, reading books helps me with writing more than reading books about how to write, but I still find them fascinating.

There’s a wonderful collection of essays by writers on subjects I’ve never even considered (such as Freaks and Fiddles, Banjos and Beasts: Writing Redneck Horror by Weston Ochse) and the history of the horror genre. Over all, I think the book helped me get a better grasp on the genre and all that is expected of a writer that aspires to compile a horror manuscript. I’d recommend it to anyone curious about what it means to write horror.

If you are particularly interested in horror books, I’d also like to refer you to Hellnotes. It’s a blog and newsletter devoted to the genre. They have contests every once and a while, too.

Henry James summed up writers well when he said: “We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of the art.” He was talking about horror writers in particular, but I think it applies to all of us. Don’t you?

But lately… I haven’t been writing. I’ve written down a lot of ideas (I often suffer from the Shinny Idea Syndrome that Gennifer Albin mentioned) and did some research for a contemporary YA I’ve been thinking about writing. I’ve been reading a lot, too. I’m three books closer to my 100 book goal and since it’s just January 8th, I think that’s pretty good, but I just feel horrible about not revising my NaNo manuscript at all lately…

On the bright side, I have my SCBWI book talk/critique group this Thursday night so I’m forced to do something with my NaNo-script. Though I’m very open to being late to it and/or missing it for another opportunity that might come up Thursday night…

On an unrelated note, if you want to enter for a chance to win a copy of some amazing YA books check out Publishing Crawl. They have three amazing giveaways going on right now!