Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: Once We Were by Kat Zhang

Friday, September 20, 2013 with 9 comments
Title: Once We Were
Author: Kat Zhang
Series: The Hybrid Chronicles, book #2
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Source: received from publisher via Edelweiss
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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"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.

When I read What's Left of Me last year, I thought it was a great addition to the dystopian sub-genre, which was rife with tedium and copy-cat novels.  It was completely unique to the subset and added in a hint of sci-fi that seemed to be missing from other similarly themed novels.  And I still think the sheer humanness of this series sets it apart from all the others.  But for one reason or another, I felt that this sequel lacked the same impact of the previous installment, that je ne sais quoi that compelled me to continue reading.

I realize that not much time has elapsed in this series overall, but I still feel that Eva's a little too naive at this point.  Her sister soul Addy, on the other hand, seems to have matured exponentially.  I empathize with both of their plights, but both souls need to be on the same page if they're ever to accomplish anything.  I do love the bond these girls share, that when push comes to shove, they trust each other above everyone.  I just wish it didn't come to pushing and shoving for them to realize that.

There's really just one major storyline running through this sequel, with an awkward romantic quadrangle thrown in for good measure, but I'll get to that in a minute.  Both of these situations, however, I found utterly predictable, despite the fact that the characters were completely shocked by the turn of events.  The rebellion is all that is discussed in this book, and yet we only really hear from one faction of it, the one willing to risk it all to make a difference.  I'd liked to have seen more of Peter's group and learn what they were doing to subvert Jenson's attempts to cure others like they did Jamie in the first book.

The romance in this series is bound to get squicky...two souls in one body, both vying for the attentions of two completely different entities.  Is it a love triangle...or a quadrangle?  There are four souls involved but only three bodies.  If nothing else, it's messy.  Eva and Addy try to give each other privacy by fading out of existence at times, but they're not quite in control of that faculty yet, and awkward situations are aplenty.

I missed the nuances of the changes between souls that came so naturally in the first book.  I felt that I was being told a lot more instead of being shown who was in control of whose body at any given time.  Maybe it was because the characters have been around each other long enough and grown accustomed to each other that they no longer have to decipher who is's just so obvious.  But this time around, it felt more like the Matrix-y shifting of Mr. Smith than the subtle shifting I observed in What's Left of Me.

This was a solid just wasn't what I'd been expecting.  I think the first book was full of heart, whereas this book brought the action, the betrayal, and the heartbreak.  I'll definitely still pick up the next installment, though, especially since I have no idea what to expect from it now.

What's Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1)Once We Were (The Hybrid Chronicles, #2)

About the author:

Kat Zhang spent most of her childhood tramping through a world weaved from her favorite stories and games. When she and her best friend weren't riding magic horses or talking to trees, they were writing adaptations of plays for their stuffed animals (what would The Wizard of Oz have been like if the Cowardly Lion were replaced by a Loquacious Lamb?). This may or may not explain many of Kat's quirks today.

By the age of twelve, Kat had started her first novel and begun plans for her life as a Real Live Author (she was rather more confident at twelve than she is even now). Said plans didn't come into fruition until seven years later, when her agent sold her trilogy, The Hybrid Chronicles, to HarperCollins. The first book, WHAT'S LEFT OF ME–about a girl with two souls–will released September 18, 2012. Book 2 in the series, ONCE WE WERE, will be released September 17, 2013.

Kat is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong. She also performs as a Spoken Word poet and contributes to Pub(lishing) Crawl, a site for aspiring writers to talk about books, storytelling craft, and the publishing process. Kat has also had the pleasure of remote interning for a literary agent, specializing in Young Adult fiction.

When she is not exploring the world of her characters, she is exploring her own. To date, she's had the pleasure of visiting five countries, including more than half of the United States. She hopes to always keep writing and traveling.

Find Kat:

Website | BlogTwitter | FacebookGoodreads


  1. I haven;t read this series, but its on my list because the idea is so intriguing.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  2. Ohmygoodness, I SO need a break!! Sorry, I deleted my last comment by mistake. Ugh! In the last comment I mentioned your review of What's Left of Me... and after going back to re-read it, it was the other Jen. 0_0 So sorry! I think I seriously need a vacation... and badly!!! Anyway, as I was saying originally, I'm still quite a bit undecided on this series. Parts of me want to read it, then parts of me are not sure I have time to fit it in with all of the others. Glad you enjoyed it though! And sorry about the crazy comments today! :P I'll just stop talking now...

  3. Lovely review dear!!! I need to get my hands on this one :D I don't know if I've mentioned it before but I LOVE YOUR NEW BLOG DESIGN <3
    Happy reading

  4. I love the idea behind the series like you because its different and look forward to trying these books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. I really enjoyed the first one. I think the love-quad would be intersting even though messy. I guess if we could share souls this would be messy. I hope I enjoy this one as much as the first. thanks for sharing.

  6. Hehe, I'm really curious as to which books you keep thinking of as copy cats in the dystopian sub-genre :D. Just because I'd read your review of Not a Drop & I also have my own ideas of what I think are CCs. Huh. I didn't think the first book had sci-fi? I haven't read it -- I just mean that I hadn't heard of that part, mostly heard of its philosophical bent and as you already stated, its uniqueness.

    "I do love the bond these girls share, that when push comes to shove, they trust each other above everyone. I just wish it didn't come to pushing and shoving for them to realize that." <-- Ahhhhh. Like best friend drama but fitted to soul drama o.O?

    "an awkward romantic quadrangle" = mind blown. And not just because of the time right now but just even picturing that. also because i'd read an interview with the author and she'd pointed out that we're socialized to believe the amorous things of the joined souls might be awkward but maybe in another world it wouldn't be as awkward.

    "I was being told a lot more instead of being shown who was in control of whose body at any given time. Maybe it was because the characters have been around each other long enough and grown accustomed to each other that they no longer have to decipher who is's just so obvious." <-- in that interview, she said that she'd had a hard time still showing the character backstories since the story had expanded and the cast was growing too fast, too many souls in so few bodies.

    I hope the third one works better for you!


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