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Once We Were - Kat Zhang
Whenever I look at What's Left of Me and Once We Were's covers, I can't help but to think that the cover artist truly gets this series and how clever he/she is.  This always gets me excited because I love seeing the cover actually mean something to the book. As much as I love pretty dresses, it's the depth and complexity that I really crave. It's the kind of cover that you don't quite understand just by looking at it, but as you start reading, pieces of the puzzle fall into place. If What's Left of Me's cover shows Eve, the recessive soul, struggling to find her voice and strength, then Once We Were depicts two souls (the outlines of the face), two distinct personalities, searching for their own identities. But how independent can you be from someone who you share a body with?  Someone who has a different set of hopes, dreams and goals? And what if you were the recessive, finally in charge of some of the bigger decisions? How do you cope with the newfound responsibility? And what if you screw up?

"Maybe I really had been meant to fade away."

In Once We Were Addie and Eva are presented with something they'd never thought were possible: the ability to "go under", where one soul would purposefully fall into an unconscious slumber to allow the other privacy. This works out well for relationship purposes, allowing Eva and Ryan some much needed alone time (because, yikes!, talk about awkward when you're trying to make-out with your boyfriend), but it also allowed something Addie and Eva never really encountered before, keeping secrets. And unfortunately, those very secrets continued to push them further and further away from each other.

And unlike in What's Left of Me, I found myself growing increasingly more frustrated with Eva as she and Addie continued to go in different directions. Their chemistry, bond and fierce determination for one another was what made it easy to connect with their story. But this time around Eva, who now gets a taste of freedom, becomes very wrapped up in the plans for a revolution that she forgets to pay attention to Addie. It's interesting how the two have switched roles in that regard and how it's Addie who begins to take more of a backseat. It's also interesting how different they really are and how little I realized this in book one.

“But the thing is, sharing hands doesn't mean sharing goals. Sharing eyes doesn't mean sharing visions. And sharing a heart doesn't mean sharing the things we love.”

I'll admit, it was difficult for me to connect with Eva due to the decisions she made and risks she took. However, Once We Were was Eva's time to find out who she is, and in that search, mistakes were to be expected. My biggest issue was the fact that she continued putting not only herself and her sister in danger, but the people who rescued her and her friends as well.

As soon as an opportunity arrived for Eva to be apart of something big where she could help change the system, she stopped thinking things through, started keep secrets, lying to those who cared about her, agreeing to compromising situations that put her sister at risk. At times, I started having conversations in my mind with Eva, going all Uncle Ben on her: "With great power, comes great responsibility." Yada, yada, yada. But I had to keep reminding myself that this is a character who isn't used to making such HUGE decisions. The redeeming factor is that she does recognize how terribly she's been to her sister and to others. She does try and fix her mistake at great sacrifice to her own person. So, Eva is far from being a terrible character, but Once We Were does show her flaws more, and sometimes at a more frustrating degree.

As expected, Kat Zhang's writing is beautiful, fluid and mesmerizing. It was one of the things that caused me to fall in love with What's Left of Me and I was so happy to see that continue here. This time around we were also treated to some sections of prose that's written in verse to show the passage of time when Eva "goes under." During that time the verses had a whimsical quality, that made me think of


in a pool

hot summer day

smiling faces

relaxing in the sun


Still, Once We Were didn't capture my attention the same way What's Left of Me did, and I did struggle a little to get hooked. Thankfully, the last third does pick up, but I was disappointed to have waited so long for it to do so.

What I was really curious for was more world building. I wanted to know how the rest of the world views hybrids, and since Eva and Addie's knowledge is limited, so is the reader's. This time around there we have a new character named Henri from central Africa who's able to give us a small glimpse at how the other nations few the Americas. However, their conversations are few and far between and I would have loved to know more about the other countries' views on hybrids. I'm hoping that'll be discussed more in book 3.

Final thought: Once We Were mainly focuses on Eva and Addie as individuals instead of just one person. They spend more time apart, losing the connection I had with them from What's Left of Me. But I do think this experience has really brought them closer and has set the stage for the final book in the series. With so many questions remaining unanswered, I'm eager to find out what happens next!

Win an ARC HERE. Ends 9/18.

Disclaimer: I picked up an ARC at Book Expo America 2013. 

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