Dystopian-themed novels for young adults seem to be flooding the market these days, and they can look very similar on the surface. So, a title with appealing protagonists, that stands out by offering a unique, thought-provoking premise, is a delight to find. What's Left of Me
by Kat Zhang is just such a book.
As a first novel, it is not without a problem or two, yet the flaws are easy to forgive when measured against a truly captivating plot, and a book that raises interesting ethical, social, and philosophical issues. Even those who do not normally seek out dystopian fiction will appreciate the compelling story and rich material for discussion.
The world described in What's Left of Me
is much like our own except for this: Every child is born with two distinct personalities, or "souls." One soul is naturally dominant while the other is weaker and shows...
Beyond the Book
Dystopian themes have appeared in literature throughout history, but the first use of the word is credited to John Stuart Mill. In 1868, during a speech to the British House of Commons, he played upon the well-known word, "utopia" (adding "dys," which is derived from a Greek word meaning "bad") and used it to criticize legislators who supported a policy with which he disagreed. He said that they were "dys-topians" because they were supporting a policy that was "too bad to be practical."
As to the word "utopia," it would have been familiar to Mill's audience because it had...