Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

Today I will be reviewing THE LOST GIRL.  This is a book that I got in a fit of excitement on a day when like 10 other YA books I wanted to read also came out, so it got shuffled to the side.  Then I packed it for reading over Christmas vacation, and started it Christmas Eve, but only got one chapter in before Christmas came, and I got a ton of new books.  Looking at all those shiny new books, I didn’t want to read this one anymore, so I started one of the new ones.  Well, despite that, this is the one that grabbed me.

Lost girlEva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her “other”, if she ever died. Eva studies 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 fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything 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.

Rare is a book that I read and have no complaints about. Even books I love, I tend to find fault with, but, despite the reluctant beginning, I fell hard for The Lost Girl.

The plot is fascinating. Back-ups, or echoes, of people are created to replace those who have died. These Echoes have to pretend to be the person they’ve replaced. They receive journals and sometimes letters from the person they’re replacing, and sometimes they can even see what the “others” see. There are those that control the echoes–the Weavers–and hunters who would see them destroyed.

This is the story of Amarra, who chooses to rename herself Eva to distinguish herself from her other. She wants to live her own life. In fact, she’s not much like Amarra at all, but when Amarra dies, Eva has to assume her life and pretend to be her.

The book deals with deep subjects, how far people will go to bring back those they loved and have lost, and how far they should respect the deceased’s wishes if it hurts another. While Amarra is called the “other,” it is Eva who is treated as “other” by some who find out she’s not Amarra. Others treat her as just another person. And still others are torn between seeing her as an abomination or as a person. Eva is torn between wanting her own life and fulfilling the one she was created for. At first she does so only because she could be killed if people don’t believe the soul in her body is Amarra’s, but she’s also hope to Amarra’s mom and friends, so proving that she’s not Amarra would mean killing that hope.

The writing is of great quality, and the characters are well-drawn. Even when people were making bad choices, I didn’t question their logic or motives–rare for me. I never got bored with the pacing, and was pleasantly surprised by several routes the plot took.

Occasionally the book dipped close to a love triangle, and, don’t get me wrong, I love well-done love triangles, but this book didn’t need one, so I was happy to see that most of the time there was no question about who Eva loved, only the occasional question about who she was supposed to love.

Most amazingly in this world of YA fantasy, the book had a clear ending. There are strings left loose for a sequel if there is one, and the romance isn’t definitively tied up, but I like that openness, actually.

Overall, I was highly impressed with this book. One of the most satisfying YA reads I’ve had lately.

Recommended for fans of: well-written YA contemp fantasy, stories of loss and hope, stories about identity, India, England, standalones, strong characters, strong world-building.

Rated: 5 blue hearts

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Lots of love,
Sage

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