Title: Once We Were
Author: Kat Zhang
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Picking up a few weeks and apartments after What’s Left Of Me, the story now follows Eva and Addie’s lives on the periphery of rebellion. Far from being assimilated in either the real Underground or the normal people, they live inside walls and forced ignorance. Comes along a new member, a girl named Sabine, who entices them into instigating their own secret revolution. On the personal level, now that it’s Eva and Addie for real, there are falling-outs and disagreements.
Once We Were wasn’t a blow-off-the-roof book like What’s Left Of Me had been for readers, it’s the one that makes me very certain The Hybrid Chronicle and I won’t be parting way anytime in the near future.
Where the first book had been Eva’s story in shade and her eyes were just seeing, this installment is about her assimilating to and into the world; for the first time in so many years, she’s looking for real. Naturally there will be mistakes and there will always be Addie. This was my favorite part of the book- Eva and Addie/Addie and Eva. The girls have now a way to lose the other and a need for privacy; what is brings along is one ignoring the other, Eva being deaf to Addie’s wishes, and general maybe in order. I liked the development of their individual characters, and also as a pair.
Moreover, something that hadn’t really clicked with me in the sequel, the writing, astounds me now. Kat Zhang is a damn good writer, and while still it doesn’t slay me, her prose is very refreshing. And fun. And water-like. I don’t know why I think that but reading her books makes me feel so coolly hydrated and her sparse writing, something as follows, reminds me of droplets of water as it splashes.
The first blink was followed by the first breath. Then the second. The third.
Addie was gone, and I was still here, sitting on the bed.
The plot is being woven more complicated, although it manages to remain mostly straightforward still. There are many new characters and I haven’t forgotten them- along with their souls, they made for a huge number of personalities to distinguish amongst. I liked them all and even more, I loved the romance.(hinthint: there’s some with Addie, too). It’s simple yet not so, just as Zhang’s writing. Now that the story isn’t just about Eva, we finally have some dirt on this parallel world. Ugh, call the moral police! They’z not helpful nations! There aren’t many answers solved, and I’d really like to know more about hybrid conditions in other nations, but it’s all very vague on some of these details. It’s not as clear as I’d hoped, but I think that’s intended and just adds to the charm.
There are so many problems to face in this installment, moral and emotional, about strengths and the rights and the wrongs, and how far is too far. I just ate it all up. Because how can you not?
Sometimes we make mistakes and they’re so terrible the word mistake doesn’t seem big enough to encompass it. but it happens. and the only way to make up for it is by cleaning up the mess.
The lack of creativity and concept is what will probably disappoint many readers. After the wonder of What’s Left of Me, OWW almost seems run of the mill. Kat Zhang has just built on top of her original concept, and there’s nothing out of the ordinary here, especially the whole plot deal. Except the characters, and the writing, and the discord, and then some. Also, the pacing is slow in the beginning, but candidly speaking, when I have stuff like this…
But the thing is, sharing hands doesn’t mean sharing goals. Sharing eyes doesn’t mean sharing visions. And sharing a heart doesn’t mean sharing the things we love.
…I don’t really give two unhygienic shits about the pacing.
Aside: Group orgy. Make of that what you will.
Make of this what you will, too. It’s all connected…
Many thanks to the publishers for providing a review copy.