I was expecting a bog standard dystopian with souls in place of the usual special powers. And while I suppose that is something of the plot, I found it be be anything but standard. You could write off What's Left of Me because of the currently booming, (and bloated,) YA dystopian genre, but it would be your loss.
Primarily, what makes this novel different is the point of view. In a world where everyone is born with two distinct souls, Eva and Addie are different. Usually, one soul fades away, leaving the dominant personality alone. But Eva never fully faded away. She can't move or speak or interact with the world at large. But she's still there. And she is our narrator.
Hybrids are illegal. The Americas blames them for their wars overseas, for terrorist attacks, for everything wrong in the country. So, in order to be seen as normal and not be sent away to an institution, or worse, Addie must pretend that she's the only one in their head. But a girl at school, Hally sees through the act. Hally and Lissa are hybrid too. So are their brothers, Ryan and Devon. But unlike Addie and Eva, their recessive souls can still take control and they offer Eva a chance she never dared hope for again. To be the one in front.
Eva's voice is heartbreaking. She's trying so hard not to be resentful of her sister, to accept her role in their life, to be grateful that she still exists at all. But of course she wants to be able to speak her opinions to someone other than Addie's mind. Of course she wants to walk and play with their brother and hold Ryan's hand.
As is always the case in these books, the government gets involved and the second half is a race against time and evil forces. That part is a little derivative. It does take place in a setting that felt fresh and the villains had more motivation than say, Crewel, so I still found it successful.
Other formulaic parts: there is the requisite love story, but no love triangle or instalove. I thought it was sweet and didn't consume the characters' lives, so again, a success. There's a revelation about the government not being what it seems. This worked less for me, because we really didn't have enough information for it to be shocking. It was kind of an afterthought to all the other revelations. And there is the missing/absent family trope that bothered me towards the end. Eva and Addie are sad that they can't see their brother, but they're pretty laissez-faire about leaving their parents.
A completely engrossing, infinitely readable novel full of heart and beautiful writing. Allow me to leave off on the absolutely perfect closing line, as Ms. Zhang has more writing talent in her little finger than I do at all.
“Addie was warm and radiant next to me, making up half of us. But I - I was Eva, Eva, Eva, all the way through."