The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
Reviewed by Kristin Luna
Hardcover, ISBN: 0062082310
Balzer + Bray, August 28, 2012 – 432 pages. Also available in paperback and e-book.
Should I fulfill my purpose, what I was created to do, even if I don’t want to? Do I have a soul, even though I was created as an Echo? Is it cool if I like these two dudes at the same time? These are the thought-provoking questions that embody the Frankenstein-inspired tale of The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna.
Our first-person narrator and protagonist, sixteen-year-old Eva, is an Echo, living near present-day London. Eva was stitched together by the Weavers, scientists in London who can create a copy, or Echo, of any living human being. She was created for the sole purpose of filling a void in the lives of a family in India. Eva’s entire life consists of learning about Amarra, the girl she was created to become, should Amarra ever die.
As expected (or this would be a boring book), Amarra dies and Eva is to take her place one week later. While her new family is aware that Eva is an Echo, she must fool Amarra’s friends, teachers, and boyfriend, Ray, at great cost. Having an Echo is illegal in India, and if anyone were to find out, Eva and her new family could face mortal consequences. Also, which is now inevitable thanks to the Twilight template, there is a love triangle: Sean, the boy Eva loves in London, and Ray, Amarra’s boyfriend in India, who Eva is supposed to love.
Woven into this story are hunters, vigilantes who believe Echoes don’t have souls, who seek out and kill Echoes living in countries where they are illegal. When Eva accidentally lets her British vernacular slip, Ray pieces together what Eva is. This leads to an almost fatal encounter with a hunter, and Eva’s decision that if she truly wants a life of her own, she must flee.
While Mandanna shies away from scientific explanation about Echoes and how they are created by the Weavers, she does focus on the philosophical questions surrounding Eva’s existence. Eva questions if she is “real” (although she does bleed and feel, just like ordinary humans), saying, “I want to be human so badly it hurts.” Mandanna also debates if Echoes have souls. These kinds of themes are reminiscent of classic science fiction like I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, and, as Mandanna purposely points to in the pages of The Lost Girl, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Mandanna created a world within our own, which leaves the reader with many questions. While some might see these questions as plot holes, Mandanna could instead be leaving herself the opportunity to write more books and make this into a series. It would be particularly interesting if the books that followed didn’t focus on Eva, but perhaps focused on the Weavers, or Echoes that are sentenced to die for defying their purpose.
Greatly inspired by Frankenstein as a teenager, Indian author Sangu Mandanna began dreaming up Echoes in the years that followed. She now lives in England with her husband and son. The Lost Girl is her first book, although Goodreads has another title listed, Grey, to be released in 2015. Her website, http://sangumandanna.com/, does not confirm nor deny the existence of said Grey book.
As with all art, there’s a large degree of subjectivity in determining if it’s “good,” or “not good.” The best I can do is give my thoughts and opinions, and rate this book on an arbitrary scale of IKEA breakfast items, the best being the cinnamon bun (obviously), and the eggs being don’t-even-bother. I give The Lost Girl a solid Crepes-with-Lingonberry-jam. Not quite the cinnamon bun, but the next best thing; not enough to shape a trip to IKEA around, but good enough that you might as well get it while you’re there. You won’t be disappointed.
Interesting fact: Eva names herself after an elephant she sees at the London zoo.
Interesting quote: “What is this power the dead have over the ones they leave behind? It’s strange and beautiful and frightening, this deathless love that human beings continue to feel for the ones they’ve lost.”