Published: 22 September 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Word Count: 464 pages
Age: Young Adult
For most of her life, Lirael has been training to kill—and replace—a duplicate version of herself on a parallel Earth. She is the perfect sleeper-soldier. But she’s beginning to suspect she is not a good person.
The two Earths are identical in almost every way. Two copies of every city, every building, even every person. But the people from the second Earth know something their duplicates do not—two versions of the same thing cannot exist. They—and their whole planet—are slowly disappearing. Lira has been trained mercilessly since childhood to learn everything she can about her duplicate, to be a ruthless sleeper-assassin who kills that other Lirael and steps seamlessly into her life.
I received this book from the publisher on Edelweiss; I’m not being paid for my review.
Usually I write my own synopsis to the books I review, but I think it’s important to include the actual blurb given on The Unquiet so y’all see why I was so disappointed in this book. That blurb makes the story sound awesome. The double Earths and sleepers and anti-heroes makes this novel sound completely up my alley, even though I have all but given up on the young adult genre at the moment. I probably shouldn’t have been so excited going into this book, because it may also have impacted my overall feelings by the end. So.
I never say this when it comes to YA, but I don’t think this book should have been a stand alone. The world that Everett tries to build is much too complex to have in just one book. What ends up happening is that Lirael takes up much too much time repeating how she feels about herself and her situation. There is a lot of inner repetition in this novel that could have been used building up this world. A lot of backstory and world building is left to the wayside in order to maintain this repetition, so throughout the story we only get the bare bones of what could be a great, intricate setting. I understand that some of this comes from the fact that we’re stuck in Lirael’s perspective, which makes it hard to include those details, but it’s not impossible. I felt that what the author wanted to achieve with the two Earths is only halfway accomplished by the end of the novel. Like, it never explains how the portals work. We’re just supposed to believe there are portals that somehow suck people from one Earth to the other Earth, even though they are clearly two different planets. I don’t understand how that is physically possible.
The world building is also severely let down by the pacing. The pacing is terribly off in this book. It does too little with the amount of time it spans. And there are weird moments where something goes wrong with one set of characters, so they’re pushed to the side and another character is introduced, who then gets pushed off to the side and the other characters from the previous scenes get reintroduced. The pacing is just all over the place, and the scenes could have used with some more smoothing over and organization.
A lot of my disappointment also comes from Lirael as a main character. She spends most of her time being sad. When she’s not sad, she’s thinking about how she should be sad. What I don’t understand is the need to set up an anti-hero, someone we know from the beginning is going to at least be morally grey, and then have them complain the entire time about how much they wish they could have a different life. I think this book would have been much stronger if Lirael had just owned what she was and used that to her advantage. By the halfway mark, I was tired of being in her head, and I was tired of hearing the same old complaints. There could have been some amazing moments, heart breaking and philosophical moments, between herself and her replacement’s family once she gets there. But, instead, everything seems to stay on the surface. Overall, Lirael’s not a particularly strong main character, and she’s not a particularly likable one. She doesn’t really do much. And I couldn’t care less about the romance in the book. It felt pushed, and like it only existed because of course there needs to be a romance.
In parts, this is an entertaining book. I think a really great concept is there at the heart of it, it just never reaches its full potential. I think if there had been a little less whining on Lirael’s part, she could have been an interesting female character, and I think some interesting commentary could have been made about the more philosophical thoughts behind the creation of two Earths–some of which gets slightly touched on in the last chapter of the book. It just didn’t work for me. That said, I think some people might enjoy this book who are less burned out of YA than I am. The writing isn’t terrible (though it certainly isn’t as beautiful as some people say, especially as its being compared to Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go–which is beautiful). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but I do see how/why it would have an audience with other readers. If you do give the book a go, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you know of any other books that tackle this issue of a double Earth, also let me know! It gave me major Another Earth feelings as I was reading it–which is a great indie movie from about five years ago.
Until next time, happy reading!