Replica by Lauren Oliver

f4.54.5 stars 

Replica is an ambitious two-in-one novel about two girls that examines themes of identity, humanity, and individuality.

The first thing you should know before I even start with the plot is that you can flip this book over (and turn it so the binding is on the left again) and you’ll get the story from someone else’s point of view. You can read the novel one story and then the other, or you can alternate chapters.

When I read Replica, I alternated chapters starting with Lyra and then Gemma. I chose Lyra first mainly because it was the real way the book was bound was that the text on the side was facing upwards on Lyra’s side. Here’s a good example of the hardbound book where you can see what I mean.

Lyra’s on top if you set the book down correctly. I should have done a little more research because Gemma has one more chapter than Lyra does and it irks me that I had to read two of Gemma’s chapters in a row at the end instead of one, but enough of my mild existential crises.

I chose to alternate chapters mainly because I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the novel enough to muster up the energy to read the second half. Luckily, I enjoyed reading the whole novel and it didn’t feel like a chore to me.

I personally suggest reading it alternating, whether you do one chapter or two chapters at a time or if you start with Gemma instead of Lyra. From other reviews I’ve read, it helps fill in the missing plot holes if you read it this way, though I find it a hassle to use two bookmarks and to keep flipping the novel.

After reading this book, I thought a lot about what I didn’t like. I’m not a particularly picky reader, especially since I know how much work authors put into writing a book, so long as novels aren’t completely trope filled or extremely badly written, I’m a pretty happy camper.

The biggest issue I found with reading the book is whether or not it would have been better just to read it in alternating point of views, leaving out the redundant parts of the novel. The two narrators spend around 2/3 of the novel together which makes things seem a little redundant.

Sometimes I just wanted to finish reading Gemma’s chapter so I could find out what happens next in the plot. Resisting the urge to binge Lyra’s chapters was a great feat for me.

I think alternating POVs would have been the traditional way to go, and I believe it would have worked better for Replica. From what I’ve heard & read, the sequel, Ringer, works a lot better with this format because the girls spend more time apart.

The two-in-one part of this novel is the only thing that I think could have been executed differently for a better reading experience, which is why I took off a half star.

If you’re not willing to put in the effort to read this novel and are just looking for an easy read that consists of little arm movement, you might want to shelve this book for a later date (that pretty cover looks great on any shelf!).

Now, finally for the actual plot summary & book review since the logistics are over.

Replica revolves around the stories of two girls.

Lyra is a “replica,” which is a nice word for “human clone.” They’re not considered people, and Lyra lives on the Haven Institute, a guarded island off the coast of Florida where replicas are secretly born, raised, and watched. Some of these replicas don’t turn out right, like the mysterious Yellow group who all died. Some replicas go crazy or insane and lose memory or start behaving oddly. The replicas aren’t educated and some of the nurses and workers at the Haven Institute are scared of them. The Haven Institute hold secrets that slowly unfold as the novel progresses.

Gemma is the daughter of two overprotective parents. Self conscious about her weight and not fitting in at school, she’s like the regular teenager except for all of the medical problems she had in the past. After being abducted by a stranger who claims to know her and overhearing a conversation of her parents, Gemma digs deeper into the mysterious past of her father & his old job that involved a three year law-suit.

Here’s the official summary:

From Lauren Oliver, New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy, comes an epic, masterful novel that explores issues of individuality, identity, and humanity. Replica is a “flip book” that contains two narratives in one, and it is the first in a duology. Turn the book one way and read Lyra’s story; turn the book over and upside down and read Gemma’s story. The stories can be read separately, one after the other, or in alternating chapters. The two distinct parts of this astonishing novel combine to produce an unforgettable journey. Even the innovative book jacket mirrors and extends the reading experience.

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

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her 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 replicas and a completely new set of questions.

While the stories of Lyra and Gemma mirror each other, each contains breathtaking revelations critically important to the other story. Replica is an ambitious, thought-provoking masterwork.

Now, as a lover of almost all science fiction, I can always appreciate a good clone story. Lyra’s story was more appealing to me because when I started reading Replica, I had high science fiction expectations.

My science fiction expectations might have been a little too high, especially since the last sci-fi novel I read was The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid (review coming August 17th) which was an intergalactic story about a created-humanoid named Nemesis whose purpose was to protect a girl.

The Diabolic left me on a sci-fi high, looking for more fun, action, and romance in space.

Replica is almost on the other end of the spectrum. The most science-fiction part of it was the whole concept of clones, which isn’t that far off from today’s tech. Long distance space travel is much further away in our future than clones, and Replica takes place on Earth in the U.S.

Although slightly disappointed it wasn’t the fast-paced space thriller I was yearning to read, Replica still slipped into my heart. I loved reading about Lyra’s experience raised as a clone, and it was kind of dystopian-ish reading about the Haven Institute.

Gemma’s novel was much more contemporary–self conscious about her body, girls who bully her, pervy boys who turn out nice. The further along her story goes, the more sci-fi it gets. She learns secrets about her family and eventually embarks on a road trip with the sweet, goofy guy, Pete (aka Perv–long story).

The novel is a little slow in the beginning on both sides, but it rapidly picks up pace once the disaster mentioned in the summary takes place. This kind of spurs the two stories to meet and really jump starts the plot.

Thrilling and growing in pace, the plot bring the protagonists (and their sidekicks) together for a fun journey escaping villains. It was less mystery once the main characters met and pieced together what the reader already knew from both sides of the story.

The plot twists weren’t really twists and more clarifications for people who didn’t infer what happened. It would have been more “twisty” if I read one story and then the other, but I liked the story Oliver wove.

The female main characters who narrated the novel were developed nicely–most of their actions were justified, though sometimes I wonder how Lyra knows so much. There’s little things that I’m not sure she knew of, but Oliver does a pretty good job sealing plot holes by using the words “I saw the nurses ___” to explain how she knows things.

I think the male characters could have used a little more development. 72 is still a mystery to me, and he’s pretty one dimensional besides his one big issue. Jake, the son of the conspiracy theorist, had the most development, and I think Pete has a lot more potential. This might have been because it was told in the females’ POVs.

I hope to see a lot more strengthening of the male characters’ stories in the sequel, Ringer.

Oliver does a good job with the swampy Florida setting and her references to different cities. As a Floridian, I did a mental happy dance when seeing the geography work out correctly (RIP Snooty). Florida isn’t very Southern until you go past Orlando, and then everyone starts to have accents and say “y’all.”

The prose wasn’t overly descriptive, and it was a lot more feeling-centric than description. There was a lot of self reflection and working through the female MCs’ character issues.

I like how romance took kind of a backburner, though some of the more sexual references were somewhat unnecessary to me. I didn’t really need to know you gave a cucumber a blowjob or you felt like you swallowed a sticky condom. That’s a little too much info for me.

The occasional drooling thought was fine and I didn’t mind. We can’t expect these women to have ovaries of steel, especially Lyra who hasn’t even seen a boy her age before. Honey, I give you all rights to drooling over his abs.

I found a lot of the narration accurate for their ages. It’s unrealistic to think these characters will be extremely mature; they’re teenagers who are still learning about life. If you wanted to read about smart adults, then it would be better to buy a general fiction novel and not a YA.

Even though the characters have their flaws, Oliver does a good job on keeping them from grating on the readers nerves. I wasn’t particularly annoyed by any of the characters.

Gemma’s story really started appealing to me when Pete (aka Perv) joined the fray. He was a good plot device and there was one line of his that really hooked me.

“Those girls are clones, Gemma. They lack brains.”

Serious double entendres, anyone? That was like a whack to the head after reading Lyra’s chapter. Pete says this when talking about the girls who bully Gemma, and this line was one of the most thought-provoking ones in the novels.

This line is so important, especially when we think about the ethics of cloning and how they would fit in our society. In theory, some clones will be smarter and better citizens than the sheep in our communities.

Gemma’s storyline really grew from Pete and I think he was a great foil for her. Romance was on the backburner besides the occasional lusty thought, and I honestly thought the romance could have been held off for the next book.

Sometimes authors rush into romance too quickly to give readers a happier ending before the sequel, and I think that’s what Oliver did her. I’m a glutton for punishment & slow-burn romance, and I think both Lyra & 72’s relationship and Gemma & Pete’s could have used more development before getting some action.

Don’t worry, there’s no racy scenes except for a few gentle kisses, so I wouldn’t caution anyone about any mature content.

I’m a little wary of whether romance is going to influence the characters in the plot too much and make their decisions skewed because of it, which is something I don’t want to see.

Nevertheless, the buildup for the romance was fun, though I would have to read Ringer to give you a full overview of the romance status.

Naturally, not all the main characters are white. Gemma has dark skin, though I’m unsure of the specifics. Diversity is not a main focus of this novel, but it’s nice that it lingers in the background. It flowed naturally and I liked how it doesn’t really matter what race the people are–they’re people and that’s what’s important.

Overall, I would recommend this novel to almost anyone who is looking for a though-provoking read. Even if you don’t like sci-fi, I think you’ll still be able to relate to the contemporary portion of the novel.

I can’t wait to read Ringer to see where Lyra and Gemma’s stories will go (I sent a request for a DRC a few days ago!) and will bring you guys a review when I get my hands on a copy!

EDIT: If you’ve read Replica, you can read my spoiler free review of Ringer here!

compressed gifHave you read Replica? What did you think? Excited for the sequel? Feel free to leave any questions, comments, or concerns below!

2 thoughts on “Replica by Lauren Oliver

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