"I'm lucky just to be alive"
Eva was never supposed to have survived this long. As the recessive soul, she should have faded away years ago. Instead, she lingers in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away.
Now fugitives, Eva and Addie find shelter with a group of hybrids who run an underground resistance. Surrounded by others like them, the girls learn how to temporarily disappear to give each soul some much-needed privacy. Eva is thrilled at the chance to be alone with Ryan, the boy she’s falling for, but troubled by the growing chasm between her and Addie. Despite clashes over their shared body, both girls are eager to join the rebellion.
Yet as they are drawn deeper into the escalating violence, they start to wonder: How far are they willing to go to fight for hybrid freedom? Faced with uncertainty and incredible danger, their answers may tear them apart forever.
Once We Were (The Hybrid Chronicles #2)Featured
"I'm lucky just to be alive"
What I had a problem with though was how confusing all the different souls could be in this novel. It was hard enough at times to follow both Eva and Addie but add to that a few other characters and it got way too distracting. Also the pacing was very slow at times that I found myself skimming over passages. Then toward the climax of the story it rushed by so far I lost what really was happening with the rebellion. And Eva and Addie's love interests were hard to follow. I didn't really connect with either of them. But that's just me.
Overall, this is a fascinating look into the life of a teen with two souls and the struggles each has in their quest for freedom. The writing at times is flawless with passages that reveal the inner conflict each soul goes through.
Kat Zhang’s What’s Left of Me blew my mind with its creativity. The concept of the hybrids, of two souls inhabiting a single body, fascinates me with its complications. The fact that Zhang produced such a well-written, philosophically and emotionally complex novel before the age of 25 awes me and depresses me, because what the heck have I done? As such, I was highly anticipating Once We Were and, while I do not think it’s quite as enjoyable as the first book in the series, it’s a solid follow-up.
In Once We Were Zhang really dives into the day-to-day difficulties of sharing a body with someone. Addie and Eva are really close, both literally obviously and figuratively. Even so, they manage to keep secrets from one another, and there are definitely more tensions in their relationship now that they’re of an age to have romantic entanglements. As Eva and Ryan’s relationship heats up, borders need to be set and complications arise.
While it’s super awkward, I’m glad that Zhang really delved into all of this. If Addie and Eva like different guys, they’re going to both have to use the same body for physical affection, and it’s possible they might both be in there while it happens, kind of like the awkward love scenes in The Host. Conveniently, it is possible for one of the souls to kind of black out for a while, but there’s only so much control over how long they stay “asleep” and they could wake up to anything. Privacy is limited when you’re sharing a body.
Even though Addie and Eva are at odds through much of the book, their relationship is still a touching one. They care for and support one another so much. While to some degree sharing a body seems like a limitation, there’s the benefit of always having someone there to back you up and put you first. Sometimes romance is described as finding the person who makes you whole (not a description I care for personally), and it’s almost like the hybrids are already whole. Having someone with you would be really helpful. In a crisis, whichever of you is capable of facing it can take over. There are a lot of strengths to sharing too.
The plot doesn’t really pick up until halfway through the book, but it’s an interesting look at the ethics of the situation of the hybrids. Hunted and feared, how should the hybrids react? They’re currently in hiding, but that’s not safe. Do you fight back? Move to a country where hybrids are accepted? Keep moving around and lying low? Addie and Eva are faced with the choice between taking action and avoiding notice. It’s a tricky decision, especially when surrounded by peers pressuring you one way or another. I thought Zhang handled this in a really believable way for how young Eva and Addie are.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The opening of Once We Were was pretty confusing for me, because it has been about a year since I read the first book. Unlike with most books, there are two personalities to remember for each body, and putting together who was who and which ones I needed to care about took me a while. There’s a fairly large cast and a pretty slow pace, especially at the start. The pacing and how long it took me to piece together everything from the first book were the biggest detractors. Perhaps I would have done better had I read the series back to back.
The Final Verdict:
Once We Were moves at a slow pace, but continues to raise really thought-provoking concepts. Like the first, this is a great book for discussion, and an excellent choice for readers who enjoy speculative fiction.
"Maybe I really had been meant to fade away."
In Once We Were Addie and Eva are presented with something they'd never thought were possible: the ability to "go under", where one soul would purposefully fall into an unconscious slumber to allow the other privacy. This works out well for relationship purposes, allowing Eva and Ryan some much needed alone time (because, yikes!, talk about awkward when you're trying to make-out with your boyfriend), but it also allowed something Addie and Eva never really encountered before, keeping secrets. And unfortunately, those very secrets continued to push them further and further away from each other.
And unlike in What's Left of Me, I found myself growing increasingly more frustrated with Eva as she and Addie continued to go in different directions. Their chemistry, bond and fierce determination for one another was what made it easy to connect with their story. But this time around Eva, who now gets a taste of freedom, becomes very wrapped up in the plans for a revolution that she forgets to pay attention to Addie. It's interesting how the two have switched roles in that regard and how it's Addie who begins to take more of a backseat. It's also interesting how different they really are and how little I realized this in book one.
“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'll admit, it was difficult for me to connect with Eva due to the decisions she made and risks she took. However, Once We Were was Eva's time to find out who she is, and in that search, mistakes were to be expected. My biggest issue was the fact that she continued putting not only herself and her sister in danger, but the people who rescued her and her friends as well.
As soon as an opportunity arrived for Eva to be apart of something big where she could help change the system, she stopped thinking things through, started keep secrets, lying to those who cared about her, agreeing to compromising situations that put her sister at risk. At times, I started having conversations in my mind with Eva, going all Uncle Ben on her: "With great power, comes great responsibility." Yada, yada, yada. But I had to keep reminding myself that this is a character who isn't used to making such HUGE decisions. The redeeming factor is that she does recognize how terribly she's been to her sister and to others. She does try and fix her mistake at great sacrifice to her own person. So, Eva is far from being a terrible character, but Once We Were does show her flaws more, and sometimes at a more frustrating degree.
As expected, Kat Zhang's writing is beautiful, fluid and mesmerizing. It was one of the things that caused me to fall in love with What's Left of Me and I was so happy to see that continue here. This time around we were also treated to some sections of prose that's written in verse to show the passage of time when Eva "goes under." During that time the verses had a whimsical quality, that made me think of
in a pool
hot summer day
relaxing in the sun
Still, Once We Were didn't capture my attention the same way What's Left of Me did, and I did struggle a little to get hooked. Thankfully, the last third does pick up, but I was disappointed to have waited so long for it to do so.
What I was really curious for was more world building. I wanted to know how the rest of the world views hybrids, and since Eva and Addie's knowledge is limited, so is the reader's. This time around there we have a new character named Henri from central Africa who's able to give us a small glimpse at how the other nations few the Americas. However, their conversations are few and far between and I would have loved to know more about the other countries' views on hybrids. I'm hoping that'll be discussed more in book 3.
Final thought: Once We Were mainly focuses on Eva and Addie as individuals instead of just one person. They spend more time apart, losing the connection I had with them from What's Left of Me. But I do think this experience has really brought them closer and has set the stage for the final book in the series. With so many questions remaining unanswered, I'm eager to find out what happens next!
While there was action, this was mostly character driven. Which I am down with because I love some good hints of romance and character building and growth. I liked getting to know all of the secondary characters better and the roles they play in their new life away from the institutes.
What got me thought was it seemed like Eva and Addie switched, that Addie was now in control more often and really taking charge with decision making and I guess that makes sense because she hadn't for so long, but I just wanted to see more of the Addie that I was from the last time.
The big struggle is how far is too far when it comes to rescuing other hybrids, and what risks are worth it. The moral and social issues with hybrids are really interesting to me, and I liked seeing how it all played out and I am somehow hoping for a happy ending for this series.
The Addie and Ryan romance while not drastic was one of the things that I enjoyed most and kept me turning the pages.
I will be continuing this series, and can't wait to see what happens next.
Bottom Line: I liked What's Left of Me better, but still enjoyed the character development and progression in this one.