Eva is an echo and she was created by the Weavers to be a perfect copy of a girl called Amarra. Her sole reason for existence is to be able to replace Amarra if anything happens to her. Eva's entire life has been spent studying Amarra from afar, she must learn everything about her others life, Eva must eat what Amarra eats, read the same books, watch the same films, have the same interests and even learn about her friends and family. Every little detail of her life is planned for her and she is forbidden from doing anything that her other hasn't already done. Eva realised years ago that she couldn't be more different to Amarra, they may look identical but in every other way they are opposites. So when Amarra dies in a car accident and Eva is sent to India to replace her things are about to get complicated. Eva has studied her entire life for this role but sticking to it goes against every instinct she has. But if she can't convince the world that she is Amarra then she is putting not just herself but also her new family's lives at risk because in India echoes are not just reviled - they are completely illegal.
I have been wanting to read The Lost Girl ever since I first heard about it back in 2011 so it has been a very long wait to get my hands on Sangu Mandanna's debut novel! Thankfully it was worth the wait though and I loved every minute of this emotional and heart breaking story. The book raises so many questions about what it means to be human, about the importance of having our own identity and about how it feels to be moulded into something that you're not. It also touches on grief and the things that desperate people will go through to bring back lost loved ones. At the same time I think it highlights how important it is to let go of those who are gone, it shows that it is OK to miss someone but that you shouldn't let it stop you from moving forward with your own life. I love a story that can make me think and that is exactly what I got with The Lost Girl, add to that the wonderful writing, the fantastic characters and such a unique premise and you have a book that I highly recommend.
Eva has never had an easy life, from birth she has been raised as a replacement for Amarra, she isn't supposed to be her own person and is meant to be identical to her other in every way. She has been lucky that the guardians who have raised her and overseen her education, Mina Ma, Sean, Erik and Ophelia, have been fairly lenient with her. They even let her choose herself a name which is something that should have been reported to the Weavers and could have cost Eva her life. As much as she hasn't been raised by a traditional family Eva has always been loved by those who surround her and they have probably nurtured her hopes and dreams more than they should have because of that. I couldn't do anything but love Eva, she is such a strong person, for someone who goes through so much hardship she never gives up hope, she wants more from her life and she is prepared to fight for her future. I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of her story, watching her growing up and coming to care for Sean and I fell in love with him right alongside her. Sean is the kind of boy we all dream of having in our lives, he knows everything about Eva, even her darkest secrets, and he loves her anyway. He doesn't think that being an echo makes her any less of a person and he doesn't expect her to be anything other than who and what she really is deep inside.
I loved the setting when Eva moves to Bangalore to become Amarra, the descriptions are fabulous and I want to visit India more than ever now. I loved seeing Eva's interactions with Amarra's family, particularly her siblings Nik and Sasha, the whole family know the truth about who Eva is and they all have different expectations of her. Amarra's mother believes that Amarra's soul has come back in Eva's body but the rest of the family are a little more sceptical and it was interesting to see how this coloured their interactions with her. It was incredibly hard for Eva to lie to everyone around her, none of Amarra's friends know that she died so Eva has to spend all her time pretending to be someone she isn't and that wears her down. I can't even imagine how exhausting it must be to constantly be acting out someone else's life! There were times when I almost hated Amarra for the way she had acted towards Eva but even though I didn't agree with her actions I could understand them. As hard as it was for Eva to have to live someone else's life and never have control over what would happen to her it was equally as hard for Amarra to know that someone else was learning every single thing about her and being trained to take her place if anything happened to her. I had slightly less sympathy for Amarra at first because we never her, we only ever got to see her through the eyes of others, but that changed as I learnt more about her.
I really don't want to say anything else about the plot because I don't want to give you any spoilers. I am going to mention that although this is being marketed as a dystopian story I don't think that is a label I would give to the book. Don't go into it expecting an apocalyptic or futuristic society - this book could easily be set today. The only difference is the existence of echoes but they aren't a huge part of the population and most people don't even believe they are out there. I'm not telling you this to put you off reading the book because I really did enjoy it but I was expecting something very different to what I got because of the dystopian label and I don't want anyone to feel disappointed. The Lost Girl is a fantastic story, one that pulled me in and gripped me from the first page and didn't let go until I reached the end. It's a wonderful debut and I can't wait to get my hands on whatever Sangu Mandanna writes next!