The Lost Girl: review

August 27, 2012 2012, 5 star books, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, Sangu Mandanna, sci fi or futuristic, UK 80

the lost girl sangu mandanna epic reads bangalore

The Lost Girl
by Sangu Mandanna

“Can we be certain of anyone’s soul, human or otherwise?”

Fiction is often most meaningful when it explores questions we find too disturbing to ask in the everyday world. Through one girl’s struggle to claim her own identity, The Lost Girl addresses some fascinating ethical questions, all the while presenting a measured, powerful essay on the value of human life.

Fifteen-year-old Eva lives, sleeps, and breathes someone else’s existence. As an echo, a carbon copy of a girl halfway across the world, she learns everything that Amarra learns and is even nearly forced to suffer the same physical injuries as her other. There have been various books that explore cloning, but what’s so unusual about this one is the psychological element, since it’s not just Eva’s organs that are being harvested, it’s her entire entity and identity.

One of the things I liked best about this book is the way the science fiction elements are handled. The creators of these echos are called Weavers, and they are presented in a somewhat mystical and mysterious manner. It has a similar tone and feeling to the film Children of Men, and the book is not unlike the way some of Bradbury’s futuristic tales are written; that is, these just happen to be human beings in extraordinary circumstances, rather than a fantastical, tech-heavy setting with some humans in it.

The writing is also well-paced, thoughtful, and beautifully descriptive, deftly balancing gravity and humor, as well as joy and sadness. Eva recalls a man with “a voice like thunder and lions” and upon her relocation, marvels at how familiar her new home seems.

I had been sent pictures all my life, of course, and Mina Ma had told me long stories about Bangalore. She had described streets, places, pieces of her life. As a child, I sat at her feet and drew picture, inspired by her voice and the flickers of memory passed on through Amarra’s and my consciousness. So many of those pictures had been true. There were ashoka trees down the middle of a long road, just the way I’d imagined…There were little stalls along the roads, open late, tea stalls with clinking steel cups and sweet shops with packets of crisps hanging from makeshift roofs. Or chips, as Mina Ma called them. Coke and Pepsi in glass bottles with steel caps. Men crouched on the edge of the road, smoking tiny not-quite cigarettes.

Every character left an indelible mark, from Eva herself to her gruff caretaker Mina Ma to her brother Nikhil to her friends at school. I was enraged by the casual cruelty Eva endures, and the parents later made me so angry that I couldn’t see straight. I do wish that Sean and Ray had a chance to be a little more developed, though the love story–and the love interest–still squeezed my heart.

“I’d rather spend the rest of my life without seeing you again,” he says,”than to watch them destroy you because of me.”

When I initially finished the novel, I rated this a 4.5 because there are some elements that might have been explained a little more, and I thought the ending was a bit rushed and perhaps a bit like a more typical YA thriller. But who am I kidding? A book that treats human life with this kind of reverence deserves nothing less than 5 stars.

This book explores loss and grief in a way you wouldn’t necessarily expect in speculative fiction and tears dripped down my face for nearly an hour as I was reading it. It is an stunning elegy for those who have been lost, a cry of sorrow for those who are left behind, and a profoundly sad lament for those whose very existence is denied. This elegant novel touched me deeply, and will leave readers with a lingering feeling of grief that is all the more devastating for its restraint and its dignity.

Recommended for: those who appreciated the themes explored in Children of Men and Never Let Me Go, those who anguished over the emotion in If I Stay, those who were drawn in by the unconventional, philosophical story in A Certain Slant of Light, and adult readers who might like to try out more quality young adult fiction.

Release Date: August 28, 2012 (U.S.), January 2013 (UK)

Rated 5 out of 5 stars

This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

Author Sangu Mandanna also joined us on the blog with a guest post about her inspiration for this novel! You may be surprised to hear what she has to say.

80 Responses to “The Lost Girl: review”

  1. Terri Bynum

    Oooh, I’ve been wondering about this one, thanks for your review! I’m definitely moving it to the top of my TBR pile. :)

  2. Book Sake

    This one sounds wonderful, love the world they are in and the books that you mentioned in comparison for the feel of this one are many I loved! Got to read it!

    – Jessica @ Book Sake

  3. Wendy Darling

    Yay for supporting debut authors! I’m in the middle of NEVER LET ME GO, Elle, and both books are quite gorgeous. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. Wendy Darling

    Oh, I LOVE that movie–and this book’s tone and feel reminded me so much of it! I hope you see what I mean when you read this, Vivien. :)

  5. Holly

    Thanks for the review! It sounds really fascinating and sad. I’ll have to add it to my TBR pile :)

  6. Elle

    Omg! I’m so glad you liked this! I actually got it last week, but haven’t got a chance to read it yet. I’m especially excited about it now since I’ve read Never Let Me Go and loved it so much! It’s one of my favorite books!
    Great review! :)

  7. Vivien

    You had me at ‘If you’re a fan of Children of Men’. I was just discussing that movie the other day. It’s absolutely genius. I’ve heard really great things about this novel. The premise really sounds like something I’d enjoy….a lot. I have high hopes!

  8. Jenni

    I loved reading your review on this. I’m not sure if it is still a book I’d love but I do want to read it. I added it to my to-read list when I first heard of it but I haven’t been able to check out any reviews of it yet.

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s one of those books you probably need to try out for yourself to see how you feel. I hope you have a positive experience with it when you get around to reading it, Jenni. :)

  9. Lili

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this! I’ve seen many mixed reviews, so I was initially worried about it, but you have me excited now!

    Thank you for reviewing!

    • Wendy Darling

      Not just enjoyed…loved! And yes, I have an idea of what the criticisms for this book will be, but I must say none of it really made that much of a difference. The emotional heart of this book is what mattered to me.

    • Wendy Darling

      …or at least books! ;) That’s the mark of a true book lover, though–no matter how many books we have, it’s never enough, hah.

  10. Heather@The Flyleaf Review

    Such an eloquent review, Wendy! You know I am in TOTAL agreement with you, I loved this book SO. And I also waffled back and forth on whether to rate it 4 or 5 (I met in the middle with a 4.5) and I sincerely hope this book gets the attention that it deserves! I think this is a great example of the amazing books being written in the YA genre. I love that it makes you think and ask questions in addition to entertaining you.

    And also? I LOVE that you made comparison’s to A Certain Slant of Light (HOLY CRAP, did I let loose with the tears I during that book!), another little book that I don’t think gets the attention it deserves:)

    • Wendy Darling

      Yay for LOST GIRL love! I hope this one gets the attention it deserves, too. I hope everyone who reads it does his/her part to write a review and help support it however possible.

      CSOL is one of my absolute favorite books. I’m writing a guest post for another blog about hidden gems, and that one is definitely going on the list. ;) Thanks for stopping by, Heather!

  11. Jall93

    This sounds so amazing and this sounds completely different from anything I’ve ever read. i really love the cover!!! Great review Wendy. :)

  12. Stepping Out of the Page

    I hadn’t heard about this before now, so thanks for reviewing this one – it sounds like I’ve been missing out on a gem! This definitely sounds like something I would enjoy, so I’ll have to get my hands on it ASAP. Great review as always, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Stephanie! I kind of hope this one takes off–it’s a book that deserves to be read. Hope you enjoy when you get your hands on it. :)

  13. Annabelle Marie Veronica

    Oh. My. Gosh.

    This sounds completely different from anything I’ve ever read! Beautiful and tragic, and tearjerkers definitely have a place in my heart.
    Emotional reads in general, really. I’m looking forward to reading this one!

    Excellent review as always :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, emotion junkies definitely need to read this one! Please try to get this one soon, AMV, I’d love to hear what you think of it. :)

  14. Sarahbotbonkers

    I am so happy that you loved The Lost Girl, Wendy. I’ve preordered it based on your mini-review alone on Goodreads and reading the full review now, makes me want to jump with joy. What a fantastic review, Wendy! I am so excited to read The Lost Girl. I hope I could feel all the emotions you felt and love it so much as well. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m so glad you pre-ordered it, Sarah! Yay. Please please let me know when you’ve read it, just in case I miss seeing the review. My GR feed is out of control these days. Can’t wait for you to weep copiously with me. ;)

  15. Sarah (saz101)

    Wendy, this sounds magnificent, truly. I haven’t read Children of Men or Never Let Me Go, but both of the movies haunted me–and still do on occasion.

    Seriously, seeing you this enthused and passionate and in love with a book makes me SO excited. I love reading your reviews… well, I mean, I love reading them on the second pass, after I shake of the envy at how beautifull and eloquently you write :P

    • Wendy Darling

      I loved both those films, too. I’m in the middle of the book NEVER LET ME GO now and I am told I must read the other one–darn my friends and their relentless recommendations!

      This is only the fifth book I’ve rated 5 stars this year, I think. :) It’s been a good year for books overall, though, which certainly helps with writing enthusiastic reviews!

  16. Amy

    Your review is so great!! I enjoyed this book a lot. I really felt for the characters. I understood both sides. Even with the slow pacing I was so invested in the story and had to know what would happen.

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Amy! The characters were all amazing, and I agree–the slow pace didn’t bother me, either. In fact, I quite liked it.

  17. A Canadian Girl

    Wendy, I loved the emotion in If I Stay so if you thought this one resembled it in terms of that, I know I’m going to love it just as much as you. The way you described how grief is treated as a theme in this one was beautiful.

    • Wendy Darling

      I was drawn in by IF I STAY and teared up at the end, but I didn’t cry for nearly as long a I did during this one! Not sobs, exactly, just slow, dripping, endless tears. So if that’s your sort of thing, you’ll love it, hah!

  18. Sophia

    Wendy, your review is almost as amazing as the book itself! <3 :) (And the book is obviously super incredible.) I was completely (and pleasantly) surprised when I read it, like you were. I wasn't expecting much, especially not the emotions and thoughts it elicited! I also think that Sean & Ray should've been a little more developed, but I'm still satisfied with the way they are. Such a brilliant review, Wendy! <3 I hope it convinces many to try out this book, as it is one definitely worth picking up. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      That is IMPOSSIBLE! But thank you. :)

      I agree, though I wish there had been a bit more development with the two boys, I’m really fine with everything that happens. And I sincerely hope people find their way to this book, too.

  19. Christina

    Recommended for: Me basically.

    I haven’t read or seen Never Let Me Go (well I read like a third ages ago and DNFed, but I didn’t know it was going to be a dystopia at that point), but I did love the concept of Children of Men, which I own but haven’t read.

    If I Stay and A Certain Slant of Light were both books I completely adored.

    MUST HAVE.

    • Wendy Darling

      I need to read COM, too–I loved the film, but I hear the book is even more “raw,” according to my friend.

      And yay, I always love finding other people who love ACSOL. So many people get mad at that book, hah.

  20. KM

    I’ve seen you talking about this book on goodreads do I’m glad to see your review. The book sounds fantastic! The issue of cloning is definitely one that can bring up some great “human” themes, I think.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, which is always why I’m surprised when some authors don’t tackle that more. I was incredibly disappointed in BETA, for example. This is like the anti-BETA.

  21. Belle

    This sounds so interesting, I hadn’t heard of it before but now I really want to read it. Great review, Wendy.

  22. readingdate

    Whoa, this book sounds fantastic! I love emotional reads and can’t wait to pick this one up. Will be back tomorrow to check out the author’s guest post. You are such a good book pusher, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      I thought it was incredible, Lucy. I worry that some readers who expect a typical action thriller might find it too slow or introspective, but I think for the right reader, it’ll be an amazing reading experience.

      And that’s me, the book peddlar! ;)

  23. Eunice

    The first time I read the blurb of this book I was instantly sympathetic too Eva. Just the thought of not having your own identity and learning other’s just so you could replace them when they die had my heart aching already. Wonderful review, Wendy! I’ll be sure to pick this up soon. And a box of tissue. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      The parents made me SO angry…and so did Ray and the best friend. Argh! But I loved all the other characters. I’m so glad to see you enjoyed this, too. :)

  24. Rachel

    This sounds so heartbreaking and amazing at the same time. I’m wondering if this is a series. Great review Wendy. :)

  25. Vegan YA Nerds

    This is such a wonderful review, I absolutely love reading emotional books so I will definitely be picking up a copy of this!

  26. Keertana

    I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this book, but after reading this review, I am seriously regretting not having pre-ordered it! I think I’ll have to make a stop by the bookstore to pick this up because it simply sounds like such a deep and provocative read. Plus, anything that can inspire such an intense amount of feeling from you is bound to be fantastic! I always love the quotes you pick, Wendy – you have such a knack for them and they capture and the mood and tone of the novel so perfectly and only want to make me read them even more. I think this is definitely one of my favorite reviews of yours! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! :D

    ~Keertana
    Ivy Book Bindings

    • Wendy Darling

      Ooo, please do get ahold of this one soon, Keertana. I feel like if you aren’t scared off by my weepy review, you’ll probably enjoy this book very much, hah!

      And thank you, there were so many great quotes to choose from in this book. I’ve seen some awesome ones on other reviews, too.

    • Keertana

      Wendy, I just wanted to let you know that I READ IT and I absolutely LOVED it! I went back and read your review again and it was so eloquently put! I don’t know how to review this one, but you did it beautifully. Anyway, I just stopped by to thank you for writing such a convincing review since it compelled me to pick up this book and I adored it to pieces, so thanks a lot Wendy! :)

  27. Andrea @The Bookish Babes

    I have to say, that I had zero interest in this book before today. What hooked me is your explanation that The Lost Girl is a story of humans in extraordinary circumstances. Wonderful review, Wendy. As always. You put me to shame. ;-)

  28. Neyra

    I’ve been looking forward to your review on this book Wendy >.< It definitely sounds interesting, and I hope when I get a chance to read it I don't cry too much ;) I absolutely loved this quote, "I'd rather spend the rest of my life without seeing you again," he says,"than to watch them destroy you because of me." -Made me gush xD

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope it makes you cry a LOT. :D

      And yes, look for the swoon-worthy boy in this one. ;)

    • Neyra

      LOL no offense taken xD we’ll see how I fare, I’m a big softy lol.

      I’ll def keep my eyes out for him ;D lol

  29. Candace

    Wow, your review made me tear up! I have only heard fabulous things about this book and while I initially wouldn’t have picked this up I think I have been thoroughly convinced that this is a must read. Absolutely beautiful review!

    • Wendy Darling

      I kind of love it when one of my reviews makes someone cry, hah. I’m so glad you’ll consider giving this one a chance, Candace! Yay.

    • Wendy Darling

      Are you on a book-buying ban, Lyn? Aww.

      I am definitely hanging on to my ARC, but this is one of those books I fully intend to buy as gifts for my niece and other people. So important to help support debut authors whenever possible.

  30. Natalia Belikov @ Dazzling Reads

    I cant believe I dont have this book in my to-read pile. I mean, WoW! just wow! you lew me away with your beautiful review Wendy and I have no idea why I never paid any attention to this book before.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts my dear. I love your eloquent and deep reviews :)
    ^.^

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, Natalia! I am so excited that you came across this review, then. It’s a beautiful, beautiful book. And I hope it breaks your heart the way it did mine. ;)

  31. Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings

    I think this book will provide a lot of food for thought. Excited to see that it recieved the coveted five stars from you, Wendy. I love books that do a good job with the sci fi elements. I am excited to read this, If I ever clear out my TBR!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, it was one of those things where as I went through the book again for my review, I thought, “What is WRONG with me? This deserves 5 stars!” The quibbles are minor, and they don’t detract from the emotional reading experience at all.

  32. Jennifer Messerschmidt

    I LOVED this one! I was tearing up as well. Cloning is interesting but the whole idea that she had to study every inch of her life, copy her injuries, and how she wasn’t even allowed to finish a book if Amarra didn’t was so intriguing and sad. I felt bad for Amarra’s families loss along with Eva’s loss.

    • Wendy Darling

      YES, the part where she describes her frustration at not being able to finish BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY made me laugh, but it also made me sad for her as well. It’s one of those books that makes you feel bad for just about everyone in it, which is a rare thing.

  33. Sam

    Beautiful review, Wendy! This book sounds a lot more moving than I might have expected. The premise is definitely an interesting one and I’m glad to hear it was delivered well. I’m looking forward to reading this. The UK cover is very different! I think I prefer this one. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I was blown away by it, Sam. I thought it would be a typical dystopian-lite novel (how many of those have we seen over the last couple of years?), but the themes it explored were heart-breaking.

      For once, I think I like our U.S. cover better, too. :)

  34. Rachel @ Unforgettable Books

    Amazing review Wendy! I love the sound of a story that leaves strong emotions and remarks on humanity. This does appear as a special book. Also, books that make you cry, are always amazing.

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Rachel! I kind of feel like the best sci-fi has something to say about humanity. And yeah, I’m a sucker for books that make me cry. :)

  35. Eden

    Hearing that this book touches so well on humanity makes it all the more enticing, because I can imagine how it might, and (in my head, at least) it sounds beautiful. And well-balanced sci-fi elements? That’s me sold. Thanks for the eloquent review, Wendy. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Eden, if the human element appeals to you, this is definitely the book for you! It was such a beautiful surprise to me. I hope we see more YA fiction that’s dares to be a little different, like this book did.

  36. starryeyedjen

    If I hadn’t already been excited for this one, Wendy, the mention of a Bradbury-esque world would’ve done me in. What a fantastic review! I know this sounds weird, but I can’t wait to cry over this novel. ;)

    • Wendy Darling

      I hope it makes you cry buckets and buckets, Jen! ;) And yeah, I really appreciated that the author focused on story and character rather than spending too much time convincing us this was The Future, if you know what I mean.