Review: Replica by Lauren Oliver

Two girls, two stories, one novel.

While the stories of Gemma and Lyra mirror each other, each contains revelations critically important to the other’s story. Their narratives can be read separately or in alternating chapters. I decided to read them separately.

Lyra’s story begins at the Haven Institute, tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida, it looks serene and even beautiful, from a distance. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, it is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed.

But when a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape. As they make their way through a new and menacing environment, they meet a stranger named Gemma, who has embarked on a perilous quest of her own. And as Lyra tries to understand Haven’s purpose, she uncovers earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals her whole life. A sickly child, she has grown into a lonely adolescent whose life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April.

But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two human models, or replicas, 24 (Lyra) and 72—and a completely new set of questions. As Gemma tries to unravel the mysteries of Haven, she learns terrible truths about herself and her family that will threaten to destroy everything she loves.

I really liked the idea that the novel could be read by alternating chapters, or as separate stories with interconnecting elements. Turn the book one way and read Lyra’s story; turn the book over and upside down and read Gemma’s story. The two distinct parts of this astonishing novel combine to produce an unforgettable journey. In this “flip book” that contains two narratives in one, and is the first in a duology, Oliver explores issues of individuality, identity, and humanity. She is excellent at portraying the emotion and angst of a (relatively) normal teen with Gemma, which contrasts starkly with the bleak, futuristic environment poor Lyra inhabits. The interplay between all the characters is really interesting as well, especially how both girls react to the different boys in their lives, and with each other. All in all, it made them both pretty relatable, and so you get invested in the story and its characters. Once I started it, I burned through this novel. Highly recommended for anyone who likes Science Fiction or Dystopian Fiction, and for anyone who enjoys interesting representations of teenage girls as main characters in contemporary fiction.