The Lost Girl is a stunning debut that I couldn’t put down and is incredibly thought-provoking. Eva is not her own person, she is a copy and has spent her whole life learning everything she can about Amarra, the girl she has been made by the Weavers in the image of. In the event of Amarra dying, Eva is her replacement. So she has spent her life only eating what Amarra eats, learning all about her friends and life and boyfriend in case she ever is needed. Then Amarra dies in a car crash and Eva has to replace her. The thing is Eva wants to be her own person and thinks for herself and is struggling to become Amarra. However as Amarra lived in India where echoes like Eva are illegal, she has to convince everyone she really is Amarra.
Mandanna’s debut is beautifully written with evocative prose and descriptions that bought India out of the page for me. However this was one of the most compelling YA books of this type that I have read to date because of how well it handled the spiritual debate about what makes a person. Eva was so real and relatable that I couldn’t help but feel distraught that she would have to stifle herself and be somebody else. Her desire to be Eva and her own person was beautifully and poignantly evoked.
I loved Eva’s ‘family’ at the start as well; the people who raised her and knew she was more individual than other echoes and tried to help her conceal this from authorities while allowing her leeway to develop. The interactions between Eva and Sean in particular, a human teenager whose father used to look after Eva and her life with non-echos was wonderfully developed and Sean became a hugely loveable romantic interest. The scene where he took her to the zoo was just wonderful.
I also love that this book explored the other side of the dilemma with echoes. Amarra’s family are lost in their grief and are hoping Eva is more Amarra than Eva, even hoping Amarra’s soul might have gone into Eva’s body. Their grief and love of their daughter was well-explored as was their growing loyalty towards Eva and their own conflicts. I adored Nikhil, Amarra’s brother, who was a wonderful character who did not judge Eva on being an echo and accepted her more as her own person than a replacement for a sister he had loved.
Amarra’s own reticence towards Eva and the knowledge that Eva will one day replace her is another touch that contributes to the ethical questions of the novel wonderfully.
This is a fantastic debut, one I couldn’t put down and that raises some truly interesting question about the nature of the soul, ethics and the truth about being ‘human’. I cannot wait to see what Mandanna writes next. The Lost Girl is available now and published by Definitions, a Random House Children’s Publishing imprint. I received a free copy for my honest reviewing purposes.