Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

The Lost Girl
Sangu Mandanna
Release: August 28, 2012
Goodreads     Amazon
Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her “other”, if she ever died. Eva studies 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 fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.
Now she must abandon everything 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.
What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.
From debut novelist Sangu Mandanna comes the dazzling story of a girl who was always told what she had to be—until she found the strength to decide for herself.

What is this power the dead have over the ones they leave behind? It’s strange and beautiful and frightening, this deathless love that human beings continue to feel for the ones they’ve lost. 
The Lost Girl absolutely blew me away with breathtaking writing and heart wrenching emotion. Sangu Mandanna is an extremely talented author whom I will be watching in the future.

The above synopsis really gives a good description of the story. Eva has been raised in an isolated cabin in the country in England for fifteen years. She has been trained daily to be an exact copy of a girl named Amarra who lives on the other side of the world. Eva is something called an echo, people who were created by the "Weavers". Someone, somewhere, has to decide they want an echo of someone made, typically a close family member. The idea is that if that person should ever die, the echo would step in and replace them.

It's an interesting and complicated idea - to replace someone dead with an exact replica. It raises all sorts of questions about morality, of course, but even more so about what we can handle or accept as human beings. Could you really accept a replica of a loved one and go on living life as though it was really them there with you?

Eva is a wonderfully sad and tragic character. Her life is the only one she's ever known. She's receives a journal from the real Amarra weekly that details what she ate, drank, wore, read, watched, etc. and Eva must spend her following week copying it exactly. If Amarra gets a haircut, so must Eva. If Amarra gets a tattoo, Eva must get one also. Amarra holds a serious grudge against Eva. Even though we don't ever read from her point of view, its pretty obvious that she does not like the idea of having a copy of herself out there somewhere that might one day replace her, especially when she falls in love.
She was right. I am the thief. I’ve taken everything that belongs to her. She’s had to give it all up. What must that be like, to know that every single thing you wear, every last thing you know, is being copied, mimicked, duplicated halfway across the world?
I may not like her much, but she shouldn’t have to tell me a thing. I feel nauseated at the very thought of being a window into a love I have no right to.
Eva has "Guardians" that raise her, train her, and protect her. One of her guardians acts as a mother figure and caretaker, one as her teacher, one as her 'doctor', and one who trains her in the ways of a modern teenager. All of these characters are terrific, especially her stubborn but loving 'mother', Mina Ma.

But out of these, the character I loved the most was Sean. He is tasked with teaching Eva how to act like a normal teen should she ever need to go and replace Amarra. Eva and Sean's friendship eventually grows into something more, but it is forbidden for any of Ava's guardians to start a romantic relationship with her. It's obvious that the two have strong feelings for each other, but they have a pretty big hurdle standing in their way.
He crosses the room and comes to me, his feet brushing softly against the floor. I look up at him. He touches my face with his thumb. “I’d rather spend the rest of my life without seeing you ever again,” he says, “than watch them destroy you because of me.” His hand slips to the back of my neck, skimming over my Mark, and stops in my hair. He leans down and kisses my forehead. I long to reach up, close my fingers over his arm, and keep him here. He pulls away but not by much. His mouth lingers on my forehead and then, as if with an effort, he straightens.

“Want him,” he says, his face hidden in shadow, “not me. He’d love you more than I could.” Then he leaves me alone.”
Of course, tragedy does eventually strike and Amarra dies. Barely any time is wasted as Eva is whisked across the world to India to slip into Amarra's place. Only her immediate family is to know that she is an echo. She has to convince all of Amarra's friends, teachers, and boyfriend that she is Amarra, because echo's that can't convince everyone that they are the real deal get destroyed.

Its kind of horrific to think that Amarr'as family, fresh with grief, must treat Eva like she is in fact their daughter. Each member of the family deals with this in a different way, from the mom trying to accept her so deeply that she has convinced herself it is simply Amarra in a new body to the littlest sibling easily accepting Eva as a totally different person who just happens to look life her former sister.

It is horribly sad to read Eva's thoughts throughout the book, especially as she tries to convince Amarra's friends and family that she deserves to stick around. She has a lot of questions about who and what she really is and what she really deserves. She experiences a range of emotions throughout the book, but what she feels most is fear of discovery and longing to be a regular human. She keeps feeling like deceiving Amarra's friends and boyfriend is wrong and she also can't forget that she left Sean behind. When Eva is given the option to run she takes it, and tries to disappear with Sean. This brings about a whole new list of problems and emotions and filled out the story to make it complete. Eva's life is brought full circle as she must confront the Weavers that made her and will ultimately decide whether to keep her or kill her.

This was an amazing read and I highly recommend it to everyone. There were several times that I got teary eyed as I read Eva's melancholy thoughts. Mandanna's writing is spectacular and gorgeous and I am really looking forward to what she has for us in the future.
There’s a girl on the path ahead of us. She has dark hair and eyes like me. She falls down and starts to howl. Her father leans down and kisses her knee and wheedles a laugh out of her. And for no reason at all it makes me think of the Weaver who made me. Of how he will never pick me up when I fall.

I want to be human so badly it hurts.
Recommended for fans of: beautiful and poignant YA, Masque of the Red Death, books that make you think, books that make you cry, and hopeless love.



  1. I love the recommemdation for readers you did. I will certainly get this book when it comes out.

  2. I would love to read, The Lost Girl. It sounds like a great read that really made you think and caught your attention.


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