Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Lost Girl

by Sangu Mandanna
Read: October 8-10, 2012
Published: August 28, 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Source: Library book
Category: Alternate history/sci-fi/contemporary mashup 

Eva’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 Goodreads)

“Echoes are asked to sacrifice everything to make another family, other people, happy. To give them hope. You are the hope.”
What if there was an organization that could create perfect copies of your loved ones? Just in case something happened to your child, you could have another one fill their place. These copies or echoes would be taught everything your child is taught, learn to dress the same way and be given the same foods to eat. And if something tragic happened, they could step in and fill the place of the one you’ve lost. Then it wouldn’t be like you’d lost anyone at all. Right?

This is the world of The Lost Girl, where an organization called the Loom will undertake the creation and raising of this human copy of your loved one. Made by Weavers, echoes are essentially genetic clones, though they also share a slight mental connection with their Other (the person from whom they were copied)

Eva is an echo. Her Other is named Amarra, and though they’ve never met, Eva must copy everything that Amarra does. Eva cannot pick what she wears, how she cuts her hair, what she reads or whom she loves. She does not even have her own name until she gives herself one. She has been raised in England by a caretaker and two guardians who monitor her progress. They make sure that Eva stays on track with everything that Amarra does. Just in case Amarra dies and Eva is called to take over.

Eva is a copy of Amarra, but is she really the same? Eva longs to be able to make her own choices, but knows that she will be destroyed if she does not fulfill her purpose. 
“You’re different. We’ve always known that. But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Being different doesn’t make you something less than the rest of us.”
There are a lot of philosophical discussions in this book. About whether different means less. About wanting to belong. About wanting to be loved. About how much you'd be willing to sacrifice for the freedom to live your own life. There is also an interesting nature vs. nurture debate in this book. Because you are an exact genetic match as someone else, does it make you the same as them? If you were created as a copy, are you as important as the original? Should you have any rights?
I am a creature, a girl, life stitched from nothing. I am eerie and frightful. And I’m stronger than all of them.
I really loved that The Lost Girl approaches heavy issues, but does it from an artistic standpoint. Eva compares herself to Frankenstein’s monster, a book that echoes are forbidden to read. She sees herself as being stitched together, created but not loved by her Weaver. She longs to be loved, and to be able to choose. But she believes that both are impossible. 

One of the most beautiful and tragic things about this story is that it is possible on some level to sympathize with every character in this book. Ms. Mandanna does a fantastic job at emotionally pulling the reader into Eva’s story. Letting us feel the injustice and horror of her situation, while also making us consider other characters’ perspectives. What about the girl who is forced to share every detail of her life with an echo, just in case she dies? What about the grieving family who brings the echo into their house? Does the Weaver who created the echo supposed to care for it?

However, though I found The Lost Girl to be a moving story and a really cool idea conceptually, practically I had trouble believing it. I couldn’t understand how an echo could ever truly replace their Other. Wouldn’t all echoes experience what Eva went through – feeling like an impostor, trying to pretend that they’re someone else? And wouldn’t all Familiars be able to tell that an echo is different from their loved one? Without meeting another echo in this book, it’s hard to imagine how the transition could ever work successfully. And the Loom has been active for hundreds of years? I just never really saw how it could work practically. 
Perhaps I care because I'm jealous of what she had. That kind of love. That kind of freedom to love.
A lovely slow-burn romance is imbedded in this book. It is the show-not-tell variety (my favorite). It is the kind where each party puts the other's needs above his or her own, which always makes it feel more meaningful - and more tragic. I hope that we get more books so we can have more of these two. 
We've each chosen. All of us. To take control or to stand back. To stop a friend from risking her life or to help her do it. To follow or not to follow. We will have to live with our choices, whatever the outcome. 
Despite my misgivings, The Lost Girl is a beautiful, emotional story and I'm really hoping that some of these questions will be answered if there is another book. Captured in gorgeous prose, The Lost Girl asks some profound questions and ponders tough issues. But it is hope that shines through the brightest. Especially hope for Eva, the lost girl who makes the choice to find her way.

Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger scale: This book was sold as a standalone, but the author has written as a trilogy. There are still unanswered questions. READ IT so we can have more books!
Rating: 4 stars


  1. Yayyy! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Lauren! I do agree that the ideas in this are a little improbable, but I was so blown away by everything else that it simply didn't bother me. I don't even know if I want a sequel - I love the ending. I would be one of the first people to pre-order the sequel though, without a doubt, since I simply love the writing, concept, and just the characters SO much. (SEAN!<333) Incredible review, Lauren! I'm thrilled you wound up liking this one, so yayy! :D

    1. Thx K! Yeah LOVED Sean. I agree with what you said here. The concept was fascinating, the writing gorgeous and the characters well developed. I could handle this end, but for the author, I'd love to see MORE. Also, I can imagine a lot more story that could be told, and know Eva has a ways to go before she could be truly happy. I want that for her. But this is a powerful conclusion, if it's all we get.

  2. Awesome review! This book, along with Small Damages, which I also loved, is one of those that I like to read reviews of because I really enjoy everybody's personal interpretation. Totally agree that Mandanna somehow made every character someone you could sympathize with. That's rare. This book just has so much heart. I loved all the Frankenstein references. I love the relationship between Eva and Mina Ma. I love the relationship between Evan and Amarra's family. Just an awesome, awesome read!

    And yes, I am with you and Keertana, I REALLY hope we get to see a book two, hopefully with more echoes (and more Sean!)

    1. YES. Yes. yes! So many great concepts and characters in this book. You're so right in saying 'this book has so much heart.' And who can go wrong with more Sean???

  3. I want to read this one so much, but I think I want to read it a little later because a lot of people seem to be reading it now, kind of in a clump. The review that sticks out to me the most is Heather's because she liked it so much. But I think pretty much everyone is really liking it.

    I didn't realize it was sold as a standalone but written as a trilogy. I really love the way you dig up these pieces of information that I always LOVE.

    Great, great review. I'm interested in the slow-burn romance, of course, but I'm interested in this echo business and how it really works. But like I said, I want to forget everything I've read in reviews before I read it for myself. (Also, your quotes make me think the language is really beautiful.)

    1. I completely understand wanting to wait. I used to read whatever I wanted whenever I could get it, but blogging definitely changes that. And if you read it later, it will remind people about the book. I think you will like this one too!

      The romance is so great in this one. And the concept of echoes is really fascinating. Plus, I guarantee you will find some quotes to add to your book! Hope you do get to this one eventually.


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