Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

The Lost Girl
Author:  Sangu Mandanna
Publisher:  Balzer & Bray, 432 pages
Publication Date:  August 28, 2012

From Goodreads:
Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination—an echo. She was made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her "other," if she ever died. Eva spends every day studying that girl from far away, learning 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 sixteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything and everyone 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.

I loved this book, even though I did struggle a bit with the premise (parents basically wanting a replacement child).  What was even more astonishing was that the child knows about her echo since she has to write about her life so that if the echo has to step in and take her place, she can.  That seemed so awful to me and Amarra obviously hated the idea of her echo and what it meant.  

This was a beautiful, deep, complex book dealing with many issues, including loss, grief, what it means to be human, and what it means to be an individual.  Eva is an incredible character.  She's strong, a bit sassy, and just desperately wanting to be a normal, real girl, able to live her own life.  Instead she has to be Amarra.  The whole process of her being an echo is very mysterious, but it somehow involves taking parts of Amarra, which means she's connected to her and even dreams about her life sometimes. This makes it even more difficult for Eva to be an individual, to be herself.

The secondary characters are memorable, including Sean, a Guardian who is just a year older than her (he took over for his father when he died); Minna Ma, who has raised her; Erik, another Guardian; Ray, Amarra's boyfriend, and Lekha, a friend from Amarra's school.  I wish Sean would have been a bit more fleshed out, but he is still a wonderful love interest and the scenes between them are so sweet.

The way Eva is treated by certain people (and betrayed) is just heartbreaking, especially by people who have obviously gotten to know her, which means they can see that she thinks and feels and is not some monster.  

The ending...ambiguous.  After I finished the book I went to the author's website and apparently she meant the book to be a stand-alone, but may write a sequel depending on how well it does.  What?!  So basically that means she left it open just in case.  And that if there is not a sequel, we decide what happens.  I have to say, I'm not happy about that.  Other than that, loved loved loved this book.

Posted by:  Pam


  1. This sounds really interesting and I was getting excited about reading it until I read about the ending... I hate open endings so much. So maybe I will wait and see if the author decides to write a sequel before picking this one up... Great review!

    Rebecca @ The Library Canary

    1. The ending is just a bit ambiguous, but if that bothers you, you may want to wait. This may be it though! ~Pam

  2. I actually like open-ended books and the fact that's a stand-alone makes me really excited! Great review ;)
    -Scott Reads It!

    1. I like tied up with a bow endings, I have to admit. I don't need every little issue to be resolved, but if there's too much ambiguity where I really don't know what happens to the MCs, I would rather know. ~Pam

  3. I am the opposite, I hate open endings :P It's great that you enjoyed this even with your initial hesitation, I love when I read books like that!

    1. I don't love ambiguous, open endings, I just want the author to tell me what happens!! ~Pam

  4. I've been kind of watching this one. I have it on my tbr, so I'll eventually get to it. The ending would bug me - just as it did you. I'll have to decide if it was worth it when I read it. :)

    1. I did love the book, so I would say it was worth it. ~Pam

  5. Sometimes open endings can be so frustrating! If they are too open then they make me mad. Lois Lowry loves to write open endings and then people demand more books in the series and she puts open endings on those too lol. This book sounds pretty good though, but I agree the premise is a little weird. I love books that are deep and thought-provoking though. Nice review!

  6. Parents basically wanting a replacement child - this reminds me a tad of The Replacement, but I imagine that you'd have less issues with the premise of TR since it's more SFF world based. Also sounds a tad like Dualed and What's Left of Me. (Are there just a lot of books about echoes/alternates/replacement children? Is that tapping into a fear you have as a kid?)

    But this one seems to distinguish itself because it's more on the philosophical aspects of such a premise. Hmm, the process of Eva turning into Amarra even seems to tap into the transformation aspect of YA fantasy too. I like how it's dealing with definitions of the self.

    Really? I kind of like the ambiguous endings for standalones like that. I'd read another one - Witchlanders - that had the same thing happen. If the book does okay, the publisher will sponsor another book but if not they don't care. And with a premise like this, I imagine an open ending would work well with letting you decide what happened to Eva/Amarra?