Title: The Lost Girl
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Published by: Balzer + Bray, imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Wow. This is the word I choose to sum up Mandanna’s epic novel. It’s very rare that I’m so struck by a concept that is so shocking and morally-challenging, but so brilliant and complete. “Eva is an echo, a clone. She was stitched by a Weaver in the exact image of a girl names Amarra. Eva’s life is not her own” the dust jacket proclaims. She is forced each day to wake, eat the same food as her original, read the same books, like the same things, love the same people. She has never lived another way, but this burgeoning young woman, who thinks and feels for herself, begins to mentally rebel by this life in which she is imprisoned. Freedom is not an easy option with the threat of the Weavers’ seekers who are there to enforce the Weavers’ laws, and the Hunters who seek to rid the world of these unnaturally created beings. When her original inevitably dies, Eva must replace her, moving from London, England to Bangalore, India, emulating Amarra’s action, conversation, and relationship. This novel will have you questioning: What does it mean to be human? Why and how do we judge others in our society? What constitutes life?
This thrilling Frankensteinian tale is timely in it’s discussion of genetic duplication what with Dolly the sheep and use of cloning to grow organs. Mandanna brings to light issues of unnatural human reproduction and how far some people will go to create beings in the human image. What happens when someone starts to play God? This position, the Weaver, comes with extreme power and corruption. I loved the naming convention Mandanna chose to use with her characters: Weaver, Echo, Hunter, Seeker. This convention brings a sense of reality and life to the novel. I especially love the term “echo.” Reflected on the cover with the silhouette of a girl, faceless and almost transparent–barely there, the concept of an echo is something that is similar, but not quite the same as, and perhaps even distorted from its original. As an echo, Eva is hardly an individual. She is a thinking, breathing human being, but she is but a shadow of her original. The novel demonstrates Eva’s discovery of her own autonomy, her attempt to fulfill the position of the original girl, and ultimately her failure to fully become the original, because she is not the original.
I really liked Eva as a character, because she has such a strong desire to be her own person. She can be annoying with her argumentative and hot-headed ways. Even though she is headstrong, she makes an effort to be Amarra as best she can because she comes to love her familiars and her new siblings and she wants to do what she can to make them happy. Her efforts are really commendable. I really love that despite everything she goes through, Eva never loses her spark of individuality. She spends her life learning to be another, but through this process she fights to form her own opinions and to discover her own likes and dislikes. She is strong, she is persistent, she is sometimes irrational, but she a fighter.
As I firmly believe with any novel, it’s not always about romance. I liked how Mandanna structured Eva’s struggle between the boy she truly loves and the one she is forced to love as she fills Amarra’s place. In this case it helped to strengthen the reader’s empathy with Eva as she works to forget her life and her love for Sean. But personally, if I’m running from the law at any point in time, and trying not to get killed, I don’t think pursuing a relationship/romantic encounter is going to be at the top of my list of things to do. I like Sean as a character, and he has a lot of sense throughout the whole novel, but the romance could have been put on hold.
The only other thing I had an issue with was that I felt the end of the novel to be a little rushed. What I like about The Lost Girl is that it never feels rushed as we slowly get to know Eva and the people around her. But as soon as she begins to run from the Weavers, I feel like we begin to skim over things a bit. Maybe I was skimming while reading in my excitement. But there is so much action packed into the last little bit of the novel. I really would have liked to see this extended a bit more.
This is an absolute MUST read. This novel had me tense and on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t put it down and I’ve been thinking about it constantly. Eva’s voice is startlingly honest and moving as she struggles with the grief she feels for the deceased girl and her family, but also determined on her search for her self-identity.