Last week I finally got round to reading Replica by Lauren Oliver. I had seen this book all over the internet earlier this year and I was so excited to read it for two reasons. First of all, it’s Lauren Oliver and if you haven’t read her Delirium trilogy then you should go do that right now because it’s fantastic. Second of all, Replica has a really cool layout where on one side of the book you have one character’s story and then you flip it over to read the other character’s version.
I went in to this book not knowing what it was about at all. To be honest, I was so distracted by the flip-over gimmick that I didn’t really care. But in summary, it’s a dual narrator book about two characters, Lyra and Gemma, and how their paths eventually cross. You can read this a number of ways, you can read all over Lyra’s story and then read Gemma’s or the other way round or you can switch between the chapters. Personally, I read Lyra’s story first then Gemma’s.
Lyra is teenage girl made and raised in a place called the Haven Institute and in the Haven Institute with hundreds of other children like her known as ‘replicas’. However the children at Haven keep getting sick and Lyra believes that the people working at Haven are trying to help them until there is an explosion and escapes with another replica, a boy called 72, where they meet Gemma and Lyra’s world kind of flips upside down from there.
I really enjoyed Lyra’s story. I thought it was really sweet and I loved her character’s narration, it felt realistic to how she was brought up. A lot of the time in science fiction books similar to this situation, the characters speak perfectly, they know the names for everything without being told, they know how to read without being taught, they know complex words. Lyra makes up words for things and people and her narration has that childish edge that comes with not being socialised outside of this contained area.
72, the boy that Lyra escapes with, there was this kind of insta-love there. Like I could see it coming a mile off as soon as we heard in the book that a boy escaped, I just knew at some point Lyra’s gonna meet him and it’s gonna be insta-love. Not saying that it’s a bad thing though, I personally don’t mind it especially in this book. At first, I felt that 72 was very closed off, his character is described as quiet and the type to keep to himself, but it almost felt too guarded. But as the story grew and we got to learn a little bit more about 72 and his time at Haven, I did warm to him.
On the other hand, there’s Gemma’s story. Gemma has grown up in the regular world with her parents who are very wealthy due to her father being the co-founder of a huge national pharmaceutical company. She was very ill when she was younger, in and out of hospitals and has grown up to feel like she doesn’t belong. When she gets wind of Haven and the possibility of her father’s involvement, she heads down to Florida to check it out for herself where she meets another Haven conspiracist and eventually crosses paths with Lyra.
When I first started Gemma’s story, I got about three or four chapters in when I thought I decided that I liked Lyra’s version better but as Gemma’s story goes on, I got really in to it. I’m not sure if I prefer one story over the other, I think that they’re both on par because where one version is lacking the other makes up for it. What I really liked about Gemma’s narration, and this is probably a small thing to others but I really liked it, is that she’s a chubby girl. Now I don’t speak on behalf of chubby girls everywhere but it’s so great to see someone like Gemma in a story that isn’t about their weight or body image or love. Whilst those kind of stories are very important to lots of people, I’ve read enough of them and I want something different. Finally, a science fiction where the hero is a plus-size girl!
Additionally, Gemma’s story gives you more detail about Haven, how it was made and what’s going on with it. So where some of the things brought up in Lyra’s story were a bit glossed over, Gemma really clears them all up. She definitely had more action as well, I think Gemma’s story was a lot more exciting in that classic science fiction sense. Her whole story kind of gave me Orphan Black vibes and I loved it.
(Editor’s note: okay, the more I talk about Gemma’s story the more I realise that I love it and it’s probably my favourite out of the two.)
Gemma also gets love subplot too with a guy from school called Pete. I love Pete, he is the love of my life. The dialogue between Pete and Gemma was so funny that I was genuinely stupidly chuckling to myself. I wouldn’t really describe their relationship as insta-love like with Lyra and 72, it felt more natural and their relationship wasn’t as big of a focus as I felt it was with Lyra and 72.
I think Replica is the start of a really great series of books, I haven’t read a good YA science fiction series in a while so I’m really excited to see where Lauren Oliver takes us with this. What’s great about this book is that there is no right way to read it. I was concerned that I’d be like “wow I wish I read it the other way round” but no, the stories complimented each other well enough that you didn’t feel like you were missing anything. This story has got such an interesting angle, if you like science fiction especially sci-fi similar to Orphan Black, I think you’ll love Replica. If the first book is anything to go by, this series is gonna be killer, I can’t wait for the next book.