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The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna (2012)
The Lost Girl (2012)
by Sangu Mandanna
Hardcover Edition
Publication Date: August 28th 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Imprint of HarperCollins)
Buy a copy via Amazon.
Synopsis from Goodreads.

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.

My Thoughts:
If you are going to read one young-adult dystopian novel this year, make it Sangu Mandanna’s The Lost Girl. Mandanna has woven an unforgettable masterpiece, complete with a creative, thought-provoking plot, moving, complex characters, a strong heroine, and a tiny bit of romance. I went in with low expectations, but The Lost Girl took my breath (along with a few tears) away, proving itself to be a hidden gem in YA fiction this year–and one I can’t recommend enough.

Plot in a Nutshell:
There are three Weavers (creepy scientist people that remind me of the Three Fates) who work in the Loom where they weave life. They are commissioned to make Echoes, copies of living people, to replace a loved one if they ever die. These Echoes are raised to imitate their “other,” living their life in preparation to be someone else. Unfortunately, Echoes are also illegal for being “unnatural.” If one day, the Weavers or the commissioners decide they no longer need the Echo’s service, the Echo will be un-weaved. The protagonist, Eva, is an Echo, she wakes up everyday reminded that she does not belong to herself, that her actions depend on her other’s whims; Eva has to read the same books, learn the same lessons, have the same hobbies, and learn to love the same people. More importantly, Eva is forbidden to do what her other, Amarra, hasn’t done yet. One day, Amarra dies, and Eva is sent to fulfill her purpose: to replace her.

I NEED TO DISCUSS THIS BOOK WITH SOMEONE: This Book Will Make Such a Great Book Club Read
One of the main reasons I loved The Lost Girl so much was because of its philosophical, ethical issues. The idea of “ordering” a replacement family member is twisted, but also understandable–why not save yourself from grief if you could? But it also makes me wonder, how many successful cases of Echoes assimilating to their new families are there. Are there people who can really live a lie, surrounded by “fake” family members? Or does the facade inevitably fall, and everybody is just depressed all over again? Won’t having an Echo only make the situation worse, keeping the family from moving on and having a constant reminder walking around their house? And what if the Echo dies too…then do people need to make multiple Echoes just in case? Does having a Echo for children make parents more careless, thinking they will always have replacements?

I think of Echoes as actors. Basically these paranoid families are buying an actor to one day put on an elaborate show for them. How dare they “order” an actor, have them train to be your perfect family member, only to throw them away as they please.

Painfully Realistic Characters Made The Story
Mandanna gives us different perspectives of the ethical issues through her vivid characters. Eva, the Echo, believes she must do her best to “lie,” so that the family and friends will regain a sense of normalcy after their lost. Amarra’s mother is in denial, desperately clinging to the delusion that Amarra is in Eva. Amarra’s siblings know that Eva means to the family, and to their parents, so they accept her. Amarra’s friends detest Eva for “stealing” their friend’s life. Ray, Amarra’s boyfriend, is also a complex character because he causes Amarra’s death. On one hand, he hates Eva for replacing the love of his life, yet it is because of Eva’s illusion that has spared him from guilt. I find his anger at Eva is not simply because she “stole” Amarra’s life, but that he has to live knowing that he killed his girlfriend. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t want to face that guilt that it took him so long to realize it was Eva and not Amarra who was standing in front of him.

A Little Bit of Angsty Romance:
I have heard people call the romance a love triangle, but I didn’t think it was at all. There was some other, handsome guy, but he wasn’t exactly vying for her love. The Lost Girl had a sweet romance (albeit, not the focus of the book), filled with a bit of angst, but also was touching. Eva and Sean don’t do epic love proclamations, but they are both great characters, who place each other before themselves. The way they push each other away for the sake of survival makes their love story better than a million love proclamations.

If Echoes Are Illegal, Why Are The Creators Marking Them Again?
If you are trying to hide your illegal operations, why would you mark all your “creations” with an obvious neck tattoo? Seriously, people could just check everyone’s necks for the Mark–so much for remaining inconspicuous. And why doesn’t Eva try to hide the mark with concealer? or another tattoo on top?

Similarities to What’s Left of Me
In some ways, The Lost Girl was what I was what I was looking for but didn’t get in Kat Zhang’s What’s Left of Me. Both stories are about a girl named Eva who has to deal with sharing a life and struggling with the thought-provoking, ethical problems their society has forced upon them. Both girls are ostracized by society for their existence and are desperately trying to hide from authorities. But while I didn’t care for What’s Left of Me’s Eva for her selfishness, her determination to regain power, even if it means putting her sister in danger, I loved The Lost Girl’s Eva who is always tries to make the best of the situation. She touched my heart. I could empathize with The Lost Girl Both books are also released in the fall season under HarperCollins.

I was set to give this book a solid A rating…but then I hit last fifty pages and had to add a minus. That ending was not good, all that drama, tension…built up to that? Otherwise, The Lost Girl just earned a place on my best of the year list. Why are you still reading this? Go read The Lost Girl now!

Rating: A-