Genre: YA, sci-fi
First published: 2016
Author: Lauren Oliver
Lyra has lived in the Haven Institute her whole life, The tests and experiments conducted on her and her fellow replicas are a normal, expected part of her life. But when a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape. As they make their way through a new and menacing environment, they meet a stranger named Gemma, who has embarked on a perilous quest of her own. And as Lyra tries to understand Haven’s purpose, she uncovers earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls.
Gemma has been in and out of hospitals her whole life. A sickly child, she has grown into a lonely adolescent whose life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April.
But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two human models, or replicas, 24 and 72—and a completely new set of questions. As Gemma tries to unravel the mysteries of Haven, she learnes terrible truths about herself and her family that will threaten to destroy everything she loves.
I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy this book. I put off getting it for quite a while because I was nervous that is was going to be one of those wishy-washy, dystopian-esque sci-fi books that I am very over-saturated with and I really don’t enjoy. But I was wrong. I really enjoyed this book. I finished it in one day, despite its size.
As far as the plot goes… it was really quite mediocre. Nothing too innovative, no plot-twists that I didn’t see coming from miles away. This book is not enjoyable for its plot. But I don’t think the plot was the point of this book. It almost feels like the story was secondary, just a backdrop for the characters to deal with their issues of identity and humanity and self-worth. And that’s why I didn’t mind it. And the story isn’t bad. It’s fast paced and keeps you going, it’s just nothing new.
What I really enjoyed and what was done really well in my opinion, was like I said before, the themes of humanity, identity and self-worth that were the main focus of this book. The two girls have completely different lives and yet both of them experience the same inner turmoil. And I really loved that, because it’s true. We’re all the same if you think about it. Lyra was raised basically as a lab rat her entire life, being told that she was worthless, inhuman and so on. And she believed it. She took it as fact. But despite never knowing anything else, she still had doubts. She struggled with her identity and humanity and her sense of worth as a living being.
Gemma lived a privileged life by most accounts. She was wealthy and had a family and all that. But she was sickly and overweight and felt trapped by her parents and felt that her body and the fact that she weighed more than other people meant that she was weird, or inhuman almost and that she had less inherent worth than the thin, healthy people she went to school with. And there’s such a contrast between their two lives, but those thoughts are the same. They’re human thoughts.
I also really enjoyed the format of it. I personally read it alternating between the two stories and I really enjoyed that. I thought it was really cool and made the book easier to read, somehow. I do recommend alternating between the two, although you can read them separately as well.
The most frustrating thing for me was the ending. I understand why it ended the way it did. Because as I said, the plot seemed more like a backdrop for the character development and them dealing with all those issues I spoke about, so once those were resolved, the rest of the story was irrelevant. It was not the point of the story. But I still want to know how the plot resolves. I was curious to know that ending. And I am really frustrated about that.
Overall though, I really enjoyed this book and if you enjoy stories that are character driven and that focus on these sort of issues of identity and humanity and all that, then definitely pick it up. If you’re looking for a hardcore sci-fi with a strong plot, then this is probably not the book for you.