by Cat Patrick
To be published by Little, Brown BFYR
on May 7, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.
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Summary (adapted from Goodreads:) 17-year-olds Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey Best grew up as identical triplets... until they discovered a shocking family secret. They're actually clones. Hiding from a government agency that would expose them, the Best family appears to consist of a single mother with one daughter named Elizabeth. Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey take turns going to school and attending social engagements. But then Lizzie meets Sean Kelly, a guy who seems to see into her very soul. As their relationship develops, Lizzie realizes that she's not a carbon copy of her sisters; she's an individual with unique dreams and desires, and digging deeper into her background, Lizzie begins to dismantle the delicate balance of an unusual family that only science could have created.
My take: While I would not consider myself a big science-fiction reader, some of my favorite YA books recently have been sci-fi. Have aliens landed and my consciousness been replaced by that of an extra-terrestrial life form? I don't know, but I must say, I'm enjoying these books a lot.
The Originals takes a simple and compelling premise that even a non-scientific layperson can grasp right away, then really explores its potential for drama and conflict. Imagine being a clone, one of three identical sisters. You were created illegally and the authorities may be aware of your existence, so you and your sisters have to hide. You have to share one life, to take turns being one person. Nothing is ever your own. You have to agree with your sisters on what to wear every day, how to fix your hair, who you can be friends with.
I was very happy that The Originals was told from only one sister's point of view. Lizzie loves her two sisters and trusts her mother, who insists that the bizarre rules she has set up are to ensure the girls' safety. And yet, Lizzie longs for what many teenage girls want: to matter to someone. To feel unique and special. To start being independent. Under the rules she has to follow, Lizzie's growing relationship with Sean can never be something that is hers alone … or can it?
I loved the fact that The Originals explores classic YA themes: identity and independence, first love, and sibling affection and rivalry. I recently described the book to someone as "Sci-Fi Little Women." At times I felt the book did struggle a bit balancing a scientific premise with a character-driven plot, and true sci-fi fans might wish for a few more details. Even I had some questions: if the girls are exact genetic copies and were raised in the same environment, why are they so different in personality? The book does suggest that clones are not as similar as identical twins, and if this is true, I would have loved to know more.
The heart of The Originals is really the girls' struggle to break free from their strange and restrictive life. There is also suspense surrounding the (presumably dead) child that the sisters were cloned from, the illegality of their creation, and the whereabouts of their biological parents. By the end of the book, not all of these issues are fully resolved. It seems to me that The Originals reads like a standalone, though I could definitely see the potential for the story to continue.
If you like the idea of YA sci-fi with a heart, I definitely recommend The Originals. It's a love story, it's a story about sisters, it's a story about finding one's place in the world.
And if you are a fan of stories about clones, check out the new show Orphan Black on BBC America. While The Originals has three girls sharing one life, Orphan Black is the story of a girl who sees someone who looks exactly like her commit suicide, then steals the woman's identity, only to find out that they are part of group of clones being hunted by an unknown killer. It's part sci-fi, part mystery-thriller, and a lot of fun so far :)