Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #7: The Lost Girl

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #7: The Lost GirlThe Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
Published by Balzer + Bray on August 28, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Retelling, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

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.

First Sentence: “I remember being in town with Mina Ma.”

The Lost Girl has been sweeping in praise, and I can see why. Sangu Mandanna’s debut is a mature, beautiful story with philosophical resonances. She touches on what it means to be human and on the nature of creation. This is a book that makes you think about the world, and what it would be like if it were just a little bit different. Though The Lost Girl didn’t quite cross the border into being a story that I absolutely love, I can confidently recommend it to anyone who appreciates a thoughtful, introspective story with a bit of action.

The world herein depicted differs very little from the modern world in which we live. The only real difference is the existence of the Weavers and their Loom. Modern-day Frankensteins, not of name but of occupation work there, building humans from dust and bones. These Weavers create Echoes, copies of real human beings, insurance policies of a sort. Purchase an Echo of your beloved child and you will not have to worry about her death, because you’ve got a spare raised in secrecy by Guardians to know the intimate details of her life.

The process is not explained in detail, and I do admit some skepticism about how the Weavers are able to create physically identical human with the ingredients Mandanna relates, but this really doesn’t detract from the story. The idea of the Echoes is less of a scientific venture than a philosophical one. What does it mean to be an Echo, to be intended to be someone else? Are they human? Do they have souls? Are they individuals? Should they have rights?

The heroine, who names herself Eva, is the Echo of Amarra, the eldest daughter of a wealthy family in Bangalore. There’s no doubt that Eva is her own person. She enjoys pursuits that Amarra does not, like art, and loves a boy that Amarra does not. Amarra and Eva both resent the intrusion of the other. Eva’s presence cheapens Amarra’s life because she feels expendable, and like she has to share everything with Eva; Eva exists only to be an imitation of Amarra, and has to squash her individuality, her desires, her ambitions. Their relationship and the way that only one of them can truly, openly exist at once has echoes of What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang.

I rooted for Eva to get a chance at life. She has so much spirit and such a strong will to live, but she has no right to life if she doesn’t follow a strict set of rules, and, even if she does, she could be killed for any number of reasons. Somehow, though, I never really connected with her or the other characters, except perhaps for Amarra’s charming little brother Nikhil. I’m not really sure what was missing for me there, but that disconnect I felt kept me from completely loving the book.

My only other concern is the very end. The very last chapter made things a bit more cut-and-dried than I would have liked. I thought Mandanna was going for an unclear ending, and she does in a way, but she tied up one arc with a neat little bow that did not fit with the mood of the rest of the book. For the kind of book that The Lost Girl is, the vaguely happy ending sounded a false note for me, though I imagine most readers will thrill to it, particularly if invested in the characters.

Sangu Mandanna is an author to watch. Her debut is powerful, beautifully-written, and full of moving philosophical questions on what it means to be human. The Lost Girl  is a great read-a-like for Kat Zhang’s What’s Left of Me.

Favorite Quote:

“‘What does your heart want?‘ It’s the question the woman with sad eyes asks me in dreams. I wonder if she knows the answer. There’s such sorrow in her voice, as if she knows what I want and knows already that those things are stars in the sky, entirely out of reach, no matter how high on my toes I stand and stretch for them.
But stars sometimes fall.”

Up Next:

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Fang Girl by Helen Keeble, selected for me by the ever-marvelous Jenni, the darling behind Alluring Reads.

Want to tell me what to read? For more details, check this post.

14 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #7: The Lost Girl”

  1. hm Too bad that the ending left a bit of a bad taste in your mouth. I have wanted this one for a while but could never find it and then one day as I strolled by the MG section at Chapters it was there! Chapters is usually wrong about their classifications though, so I ask, is this MG or YA?

    I really like the premise behind this and it sounds like is was executed rather well. 4 stars from you is high praise, so now I can’t wait to get to this one.

    Yay! Fang Girl is next! I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, the ending just was too happy for my tastes. It’s not happy happy, but I wanted it to be more open-ended than it was. I’m such a grump.

      It’s totally YA. Chapters be cray.

      4 stars IS high praise. *is hard to please*

  2. I didn’t read the review for The Lost Girl since I’m reading it right now, but I’m glad you gave it 4 stars. It’s our read-along/virtual book club book this month. I hope it doesn’t disappoint anyone since it received a fair amount of hype prior to being published.

    I’ll have to come back and see what you think of Fang Girl too. It’s on my list of books to read (eventually). 🙂

  3. Renae M. says:

    I haven’t read What’s Left of Me or The Lost Girl, but I was definitely struck by how similar they seemed. Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily.

    I’ve been eyeing this one for a while—it’s like an underground hit, and I’ve been curious to see if it’s actually as good as it sounds, and it would seem that it is. (Of course, I’m also Madame Contrary, so I may hate it.)

    • Christina says:

      No, I don’t think it’s a bad thing in this case at all. Comparisons could also be made to Dualed, but the tones of Zhang’s and Mandanna’s are definite more akin. Obviously, I don’t know what you’ll like, but I think both would be good fodder for you.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Great review! I thought you would like his one more than I did, although I also felt like I didn’t really connect fully with the characters. I think part of the reason this one rubbed me the wrong way is that I actually had a sibling (only a few months old) who died when I was 3, and the idea of having an Echo just seems really wrong and strange to me, and not something that would help anyone with the grieving process or that anyone would actually want…

    • Christina says:

      Oh yeah, that element is a bit weird, but I think I came to it from a more theoretical perspective than you did. I’ve never been a parent and I’m an only child, so I guess I could see parents wanting to have a backup for their only kid.

    • Christina says:

      Especially if you needed an heir! Royalty would be ALL over this.

  5. Molli Moran says:

    Other than a few quibbles, I felt the same as you, Christina. I went into this one really curious if I’d like it, and found that I really DID enjoy it. I’m not sure if I ever totally emotionally clicked with Eva (those books where I DO are the ones that make me cry, and gut me deep down while I’m reading them.) It was really a book to make you THINK though, because there are some huge moral and philosophical issues that were as sad to me as they were fascinating. I’m glad you brought all that up.

    Fabulous review, chica!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

    • Christina says:

      I was really expecting to love this one to pieces, so that may have colored my appreciation for the characters somewhat, but perhaps not. Maybe I never would have connected with Eva. It’s so hard to say! But,for all that, I found the other elements quite strong, if viewed more though a philosophic lens.

  6. Aw, I LOVED this book! It took me by surprise, when I read the ARC there had not been much noise about it. I also agree w/ your comparison with What’s Left of Me, though I preferred The Lost Girl tenfold to Zhang’s book.

    I love YA books that ask all those BIG questions, philosophical and ethical in nature. And I loved the nod to Frankenstein as well. I am really hoping that Mandanna writes more about this world because I would definitely read more.

    • Christina says:

      Oh really? I liked both. They had a similar concept and themes but went in quite different directions. I think the plotting of this one is a bit more solid, but I liked the mind-bendy two souls concept a bit more, so it’s a toss up for me.

      Yes, I only just realized I should have mentioned the Frankenstein connection, though I don’t remember Shelley’s book well enough to say anything all that helpful, so oh well.

  7. Lynn K. says:

    The Lost Girl was definitely a thought provoking novel and like you said, had a similar feel to What’s Left of Me. If not for the ending part and the rather vague background of Weavers/Echoes I think this would have been a 5 star read for me.

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