Replica (Replica, #1) by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on October 4, 2016
Genres: young adult, science fiction, romance
Format: Paperback (ARC)
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And in that second she knew, she truly understood, what Pete had said to her outside. Monsters weren’t made, at least not by birth or fate or circumstance. Monsters chose to be monsters. That was the only terrible birth, the kind that happened again and again, every day. (Gemma, pg. 268)
I think this book is going to mislead a lot of people.
The Goodreads blurb makes this book sound like it’s full of action and mystery, where clones are on the run from an evil corporation that’s intent on silencing all those who know its horrifying secrets. It sounds like a book that’s going to be both explosive and introspective, looking at what it means to be human and what it means to be an individual to a soundtrack of bullets and bombs.
But if you’re looking for a book complete with plenty of explosions and guns and violence and running from eeeevilll scientists, don’t look here. Because that is not this book’s approach to this story at all.
There is some violence, sure, and a good peppering of action, but overall, this book is pretty mellow when it comes to action. Instead, this novel focuses more on the introspective side of cloning, giving us two different perspectives on the issue through the narration of two different girls: Gemma, a “normal,” sheltered teenage girl with family connections to Haven who’s unsure of who she is and what she’s worth; and Lyra, a “replica” (A.K.A, clone) whose whole life changes when the Haven Institute, the only home she’s ever known is destroyed. Both girls are connected to each other–and to Haven–in ways they’re unaware of, and this is a novel that tracks their realization of this and the actions they take to learn more about both Haven’s past and their own.
The formatting of this book is certainly unique; you can read each girl’s story separately, or as alternating chapters in one large book. I did the latter to avoid possible confusion and get a more well-rounded experience of the book, but how you want to experience these characters and their journey to discovering who they are and what that means is entirely up to you.
However, while the formatting certainly makes this book stand out, it’s just as much a detriment as it is an advantage. This book is almost 550 pages long, and, during most of it, we’re in our main characters’ heads and listening to their reflections on certain things.
But for Lyra, something deeper happened. She fell in love, although she didn’t know it and would never have thought in those terms, since she didn’t understand what love was and had only rarely heard the word. Under the influence of Dr. O’Donnell’s voice and her long fingers (some of them scattered with tiny freckles) turning the pages, a long-buried part of her consciousness woke, stirred, and opened. (Lyra, pp. 27-28)
Above them, the sky was shedding its blue, revealing an undercoat of improbable violets and pinks. Gemma found herself praying that the night, and the darkness that transformed cars to headlights and absorbed individual features, would come quickly. (Gemma, pg. 273)
Mostly, Gemma listened. Mostly, she turned her face to the window and saw her double reflected there, ghostly over the passing landscape: a different Gemma from the one who’d left home less than a week ago–stronger, both more and less sure of herself. She didn’t know what was coming for her, but she knew that she’d be ready. (Gemma, pg. 294)
While the writing is pretty and it gives us a better understanding of our narrators, who they are, and where they come from, I felt like nothing much really happened during this novel. They meet each other, they set out to find answers to their questions, they get answers, they get chased. That’s it (no spoilers in saying that, I promise). And, just when it feels like the story is going to go somewhere further, to take us to the next step, everything just…ends.
It’s not that the pacing is off or that the ending felt rushed, necessarily. It’s more that we’re given answers a little too quickly for some questions, and we’re not given any answers to others, mainly because the book ends as the characters just start to accept these revelations. It takes most of the book to learn the whys and hows of Haven and the answers to the questions Gemma and Lyra seek, and, almost right after we learn them: boom. The end. We’re taken from Point A to Point B, but it takes a while to get to B, and I felt we should’ve been taken to Point C, but the book ended before that happened.
Character development suffered because of this. Gemma, April, Lyra, 72, Jake, Pete…They all have the potential to be unique, well-rounded characters, but we don’t get enough page time with them to really get to know them. The foundations for great characters were there, but they weren’t as developed as I wanted them to be. It was like they were almost alive, but not quite there. I’m hoping there’s more character development in the second book, because I would love to learn more about them.
So overall, this was a solid book: well-established characters, well-toned writing, and a driven plot, if slow-moving and a little unsatisfying. Replica has potential to be a great book instead of just a good one, but it’s not developed enough to realize its full potential. I liked it, but didn’t love it.
Many thanks to Alli and Taylor of A Bookish Alli for sending me this ARC, and thank you to HarperCollins and the author for supplying it. All quotes in this review are from an advance copy of the book, and are subject to change in the final copy. No compensation of any kind was exchanged for this review.