This book drew my attention when I saw it in my local Waterstones branch, I picked it up and was immediately perplexed by the way the print copy of this book had matching covers front and back yet one had the name Lyra on the front and the other the name Gemma. If you turned the book over and upside down you seemed to get a different book and the text when you reached half way would flip over and you’d need to flip the book the other way to read the other half.
Written by Lauren Oliver this book is a different concept, it is two stories in one. Each a story of a young girl that when read separately make sense but when read together give you the full picture and detail of their stories when they merge as one. You have the choice, you can either read Lyra’s story first then Gemma’s or vice versa or you can do what I chose to do and read a chapter of each girls stories and keep jumping between them both throughout.
In Lyra’s story we meet a young girl, living in a facility on an island off the coast of Florida she has been bred, she is a clone or as they are called in the facility a replica. The facility is full of replicas, bred from human DNA they are classed as less than human, born and herded into batches and branded by colours they live in dormitories and get little human contact and no love or stimulation. Replica’s are segregated by sex and often whole batches of them will become sick and die. Lyra is known as number 24. One day she meets number 74, a male replica who has tried to escape the island and suddenly a cataclysmic event will force them off the island together and into the real world. How will they cope in a world they don’t understand and with people chasing them down before the world learns about what they are.
In Gemma’s story, we meet a teen living with her strict parents, her father is head of a pharmaceutical company and her mom suffers from issues with her nerves. Gemma has been sick for parts of her life and has vague memories of a hospital facility somewhere but she doesn’t think about it too much as she struggles with the normal high school issues of low self-confidence and popularity issues. A few days before she’s due to go to Florida on Spring Break a man approaches her in a gas station car park and demands to learn what she knows about ‘Haven’, driven by memories from her past she begins to investigate this strange place and eventually to try and visit the facility itself. It will take her on a road trip to Florida where she will learn about the conspiracy theories that exist about an island off the coast.
This book started really well, it was immediately engaging and I liked both main characters equally. Lyra had the innocence of someone who has never experienced human love and interaction and the wonder of a child who knows there is much about her world she doesn’t understand. Gemma is the quintessential child who wants to please, she tows the family line and never questions until she is forced out of her comfort zone and forced to face the truth about her father’s job.
This book is going to be part of an ongoing series, with book 2 Ringer due for release in October 2017, so this book does answer some questions that we seek from the start of the story but it does clearly leave us lots of blanks that will form the basis of subsequent stories of the two girls. This isn’t a nice fluffy read, it’s got some dark moments and the story is full of action in the second half. It is a really quick read too, I think because I read chapter around and was flipping back and forth through the pages I didn’t really realise just how far I’d gotten until it was done, it’s deceptive that way. We really only get around 18 chapters from each girls perspective and they fly by very quickly so that added to the aspect of not feeling the story had completed.
It was a combination of the movie The Island and Humans the TV show but perhaps not quite so sophisticated in its storytelling. It was a good read but it wasn’t one that I’d say blew me away, it was engaging and interesting but I’m not sure it would be one I’d immediately recommend to friends. I will definitely be delving into book 2 later this year after it’s release.