By Lauren Oliver.
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, aka number 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 Institute. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.
I read up some things about this book online before attempting to read it, trying to figure out how and where to start. For those who don’t know, this is a flipbook that contains two narratives – Lyra’s on one side, and Gemma’s on the other. Lauren Oliver herself wasn’t much help, explaining in a video that you can start with either narrative, or even alternate between them as you go along, which means this book allows for three different reading experiences. I have to say that this, more than anything, is what really drew me to it, as I had never read any other Lauren Oliver books at the time I picked this up at the bookstore.
I decided that alternating chapters would be a) hard work (this book is huge and not very easily handled) and b) too much like all the other books out there that have a dual point of view. So I started with Lyra’s half and read all the way through, then switched to Gemma’s.
Lyra’s story is interesting, but Gemma’s is more exciting. Lyra was raised and has always lived in Haven as a replica, while Gemma has led a normal life. By the end of the book, these two characters find their roles reversed, and I liked that symmetry. I also enjoyed the different reactions from 72 and Pete, who nonetheless come around to the same conclusion – love is love.
Some events seemed a little forced, like Gemma asking Pete for a ride to Florida out of the blue, or Lyra’s father being willing to go to prison based on Gemma’s word, who at this point was little more than a stranger to him.
Jake’s death also lacked impact, but I think that’s due to the order in which I read the book. In Lyra’s half, you see him die but you didn’t really know much about him. When you read Gemma’s half, you get to know him a little, but then don’t witness his death.
Did I enjoy Gemma’s story more because I read it last? Would I have liked Lyra’s half more if I had switched the reading order? I don’t know. I wish I could read it again for the first time in a different way, just to be able to compare the experiences.
The book ends with them all together, facing an unknown future. There are a lot of questions raised about the ethics and morals regarding cloning, but they weren’t explored as deeply as I wished. It’s such an interesting subject, and the basis for the whole story, but I don’t think it was really discussed enough. I wanted to see more interaction between Lyra and Gemma, especially at the end after they both make those life changing discoveries about themselves. Here’s hoping it happens in the next book.
3 hearts out of 5.