Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mandanna's Lost Girl

The Lost Girl / Sangu Mandanna
New York: Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, c2012.
390 p. (in paperback)

Another choice for the More Diverse Universe reading challenge hosted by Aarti at Booklust, I read this in ebook format after serendipitously discovering it in my library's ebook collection. It was perfect for taking with me for my commute yesterday.

The Lost Girl is a thoughtful thriller, raising questions of identity, bioethics, and self-determination. Our main character, Eva, is 15, and she is an "echo", a person who has been created, or stitched together, as they call it, by The Weavers, a secretive trio of London-based bioengineers who create life. She is carefully raised in isolation in the English countryside, as the purpose of her existence is to become a shadow copy, an echo, of her original, Amarra. In case the unthinkable happens and her original dies, Eva can step in and become Amarra.

Of course, it happens, and Eva's life is utterly changed as she must fulfill her responsibilities and move to Bangalore to live with Amarra's family. Amarra's mother seems to believe that Amarra's soul is there within Eva, but it quickly becomes clear that the rest of her family -- the father, younger brother and very young sister -- do not. They accept that Eva is a different person but they don't want to destroy their mother's hope that Amarra is really still there with them. And all of Amarra's friends, especially her boyfriend, are very suspicious. Echoes are illegal in India, just to up the stakes a bit, and Eva is feeling the pressure to fully become Amarra... and then she is revealed.

The story is really exciting, the pace is quick with lots of drama, due to Eva's being an Echo, and to the fact that she's rebelling against the rules of The Weavers and is thus in danger from them too -- rebellious Echoes are usually dealt with in a permanent fashion. There are also her romantic trials; she's fallen in love with one of her English guardians (strictly forbidden) while trying to convince Amarra's boyfriend Ray that she is truly Amarra. Quite a tangle!

There are some wonderful characters in this, aside from the main ones. Eva's guardian Mina Ma is loyal, tough, and loving. Her other guardians are mostly kindly people, as much as possible, but her creator, the Weaver Matthew, is very complicated -- at times fascinating, at others repellent. Amarra's younger brother Nikhil is a very sweet and serious boy, and I thought he was a wonderful, loyal, thoughtful character. The story moves between England and Bangalore, and there is lots of danger, excitement, and romance to keep you reading. The plot itself showed a few weaknesses, but as long as you don't try to convince yourself of the plausibility of every single step Eva takes, you will enjoy the fast moving yet serious tone of this book.

Mandanna says that she was inspired partly by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein  -- a book, by the way, that all Echoes are strictly forbidden to read. Since it's about the personhood of a created monster, and one that turns on its maker, you can see why! This was an entertaining, thought-provoking book with some clever elements that I appreciated, and think that the themes could really spark some discussion in a teen bookgroup. The settings, characters and ideas were all well done, and I am so glad this title dropped into my hands, so to speak.


  1. WOW, this sounds like a book that packs a punch! It reminds me a bit of Never Let Me Go, but takes it even further. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention. My extended family lives mostly in Bangalore, so I'll definitely be putting this one on my list :-)

    1. I'd love to see what you think of this one, having a Bangalore connection yourself. It was a good debut novel though!


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