Wednesday 21 December 2016

REPLICA by Lauren Oliver

Turn REPLICA one way and read Lyra's story; turn the book over and upside down and read Gemma's story!

Lyra's story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects - Lyra, aka number 24, and the boy known only as 72 - manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family's past and discovers her father's mysterious connection to the secretive Haven Institute. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.

While the stories of Lyra and Gemma mirror each other, each contains breathtaking revelations critically important to the other story. REPLICA is an ambitious, thought-provoking masterwork.

I've read several Lauren Oliver books and really enjoy how she weaves intriguing stories. So I was very interested in checking out this unique book.

I started by reading, LYRA:

Lyra--also known as 24--has lived all her life inside the walls of Haven. She's a replica: one of many who are constantly experimented on and aren't even considered/treated like humans. The doctors and nurses refer to them as it and if they show any signs of being individuals, the replicas get in trouble.

The problem is most replicas reach a certain age and get sick, though some don't even get that far. But the doctors are always taking samples and checking on them in order to find a cure. At least, that's what Lyra believes. When she starts feeling sick, she tries to keep it a secret. She doesn't want the nurses and doctors to know, doesn't want to be under their scrutiny.

Still, that's not the biggest threat she faces. There are people outside the island who want to destroy the place, and before Lyra realises what's happening, she's on the run with a male replica...

This book was amazingly sad. But it was also incredibly interesting and kept me turning the pages through Lyra and 72's ordeal. Their adventure was tiring, exciting, and I couldn't stop cheering for these two kids. I kept hoping they would find safety and get the answers they deserved. And that they got the chance to experience real lives, and even get a shot at living outside of the prison they were kept in. But when you don't understand the vastness of the world or how it works, and people won't stop searching for you to keep their secrets hidden, the odds are not stacked in your favour. :(

I really liked Lyra's narrative. She starts out shy, hesitant and very naive. Yet as things start to happen and move around her, Lyra's personality really shines through. I felt so bad for her, being forced to live as if she was a lab rat rather than a person.

Such a sad, yet wonderful story.

I took a few days away from the book before getting stuck into GEMMA:

Gemma lives in a big, expensive house with her loyal dog, pill-popping mother and angry businessman father. Her life is lonely because she's had health problems since she was little. She only has one friend. April and her always joke about being aliens because they don't fit in with the perfect, mean girls at school.

The day a strange man tries to grab her, two things happen: she starts to look into her family's connection to a place called the Haven Institute, and she befriends a guy from school the mean girls call Perv.

When the secrets get too much to deal with and her parents cancel her plans to spend spring break in Florida with April, she decides to go anyway. By the time she gets to Florida, the institute has been attacked, and she stumbles on a guy who's as eager as she is to find out more about Haven. But while sneaking up on the island, they find a female and male replica. As well as a whole lot of trouble...

This book was just as awesome as Lyra. I loved how Gemma went from a self-conscious, sick girl to an adventurous girl desperate to find out the truth about a place she has a deeper connection with than she ever imagined. Her sheltered life is shattered by her need for answers, but opens her up for real life experiences. She also gets involved with two very different kinds of boys: a guy trying to continue his conspiracy-theory-obsessed father's work, and a guy from school victimised in much the same way she was.

I loved Gemma's narrative because she really grows as a person. She starts out uncertain and feels like a useless, sheltered victim, but slowly transforms into an inquisitive investigator determined to get to the bottom of things. As well as being determined to protect the replicas and get to know the real Pete.

Such an emotional, wonderful story.

I really (really) enjoyed both sides of this book. Lyra and Gemma's stories are very different, and their personalities and experiences are different too. Yet, their lives and experiences are like opposing mirrors. To truly understand one girl, you have to read about the other. Which I thought was a very clever way of revealing a deep and very emotional story.

Replica is an amazing, fast-paced, page-turner told in two parts by two very different girls who are connected by the greed and crimes of the adults in their lives. The pages are filled with sad, yet hopeful situations that question what it is to be human and leads each character to their own self-discovery. As the truths start to reveal themselves, the biggest twist about Lyra and Gemma both shocked and intrigued me.

I seriously LOVED this book!

Now that I know there's going to be a sequel... I can't wait to read more.

Replica, October 2016, ISBN 9781473614963, Hodder & Stoughton

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