Replica by Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publishing Info: 2016 by Hodder & Stoughton
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
From Lauren Oliver, New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy, comes an epic, masterful novel that explores issues of individuality, identity, and humanity. Replica is a “flip book” that contains two narratives in one, and it is the first in a duology. Turn the book one way and read Lyra’s story; turn the book over and upside down and read Gemma’s story. The stories can be read separately, one after the other, or in alternating chapters. The two distinct parts of this astonishing novel combine to produce an unforgettable journey. Even the innovative book jacket mirrors and extends the reading experience.
Lyra’s story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. 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.
Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her 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 replicas and a completely new set of questions.
While the stories of Lyra and Gemma mirror each other, each contains breathtaking revelations critically important to the other story. Replica is an ambitious, thought-provoking masterwork.
As soon as I heard about Replica I knew I had to read it. Having the book told in two halves in a ‘flip book’ format sounded so original and interesting. I wanted to find out whether Lauren Oliver manages to pull off the concept. I read the book one story after the other, starting with Lyra’s. It’s interesting that you can read the book this way, or starting with Gemma’s story, or with alternating chapters (though that would require a lot of back and forth turning over of the book). One of my concerns was that it would be repetitive, having the same story told twice from two narrators, but there are actually only a few scenes that overlap between the stories so this isn’t a problem.
People being experimented on is a well-worn trope, but Oliver’s writing style and characters really pulled me in. I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next, and what was really going on with Haven. I liked the conspiracy theory and mystery element. Although it kept me hooked, much didn’t actually happen event and plot wise since the same time frame is told twice. If it were to cover a longer period of time though it would have been a massive book since it would be doubled, so I guess it wasn’t really possible to cover more ground.
The voices of the two narrators were definitely distinctive, which is good since that can be where multi-narrative books fall down. I liked both Lyra and Gemma as main characters. The supporting characters were also likeable. 72 was a bit stereotypically the quiet and dark kind of figure. Pete was quirky and a more unique and interesting character who I thought was refreshing and different to other YA male characters.
There were some teenage stereotypes and clichés that made me roll my eyes, but I felt it stepped away from those enough. There was enough about it that was unique and engaging to counteract my dislike of the YA clichés.
It certainly wasn’t perfect, but I absolutely loved reading it and was one of my favourite reads of the last year. It kept me engaged the whole way through. I can’t wait for the second book in the duology to come out (also, duology for once instead of a trilogy!).