Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review and Virtual Tour of The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna


Title: The Lost Girl 

Author: Sangu Mandanna 

Rating: 5 Stars 

If I were ever to write a book, this is the book I would want to see my name on. The Lost Girl was not a novel I originally went into expecting to love, but surely enough, it has made its place in my heart and even now, days after putting it down, it hasn't left. Yet, more than that, I don't want it to. With her debut, Sangu Mandanna has created a piece of fiction that transcends all boundaries and explores, not only an unique futuristic society, but also the bonds of friendship, the ties of family, the depth of grief and most of all, what it means to be human. 

In all honesty, I can not explain the utter beauty that this book is. The Lost Girl is truly, in every sense of the word, a heart-wrenching tale that will keep you both reaching for the tissue boxes and stunned in horror. Mandanna’s futuristic world is one that is richly developed and filled with cut-throat politics. You see, echoes, or clones, are regarded as monsters in society and many of them are illegal in certain countries, including India. Yet, this doesn’t stop parents from requesting a carbon-copy of their children in the hopes that their grief will be alleviated through the presence of one who looks exactly like their deceased child. Thus, Weavers, enigmatic scientists who reside in England, create these echoes and while society shuns them, they live their life in perpetual fear of Hunters, people who dedicate their lives to wiping off all the echoes from the face of this planet. In The Lost Girl, however, we see life through the lens of Eva, an echo herself, and we see that she is just another teenage girl. Eva’s narration is filled with poignancy, an inner sorrow, and deep-rooted hope for her future. Throughout the novel, we only become closer and closer to Eva until her feelings are ours and it is impossible to tell where we, as readers, end and she, as a character, begins.

The Lost Girl is truly a character-driven novel, but that does not make it a novel without a brilliant plot-line of its own. Eva has grown up in isolation, studying the life and memories of Amarra, the girl whose face she shares. Thus, when Amarra unexpectedly dies in a car crash, Eva is forced to leave behind the only life – and family – she has ever known and travel to India, forgoing her true nature and becoming Amarra once and for all. Yet, Eva and Amarra are completely different people and it is Eva’s struggle to remain true to herself and her personality in a world which demands she become someone else that is so moving. Mandanna writes with a skill that is unparalleled and she develops Eva’s character in a subtle, and utterly compelling, manner. We, as the reader, are with Eva every step of the way and cannot help but root for her to eventually find a solution to her dilemma and return home – to her home – England and finally be together with her family and not Amarra’s.

The Lost Girl is split, roughly, into three sections, each of which detail a different part of Eva’s journey, but within the first section itself we are so invested in Eva’s life. We see Eva’s bond with Mina Ma, the mother figure of her life, and are exposed to the beautiful friendship which is just waiting to blossom into something more with her Guardian, Sean, and just as we have given our hearts out to Eva and her little world of happiness, it is snatched away from us. Eva’s life in the second section focuses on her journey in India as she assimilates with Amarra’s family, builds friendships with her siblings, makes friends of her own, and most confusing of all, battles with her emotions concerning Amarra’s boyfriend. Yet, there is no love triangle in this novel as Eva’s heart belongs solely with Sean. Nevertheless, there is a gentle exchange and slow build-up of beautiful friendships and for someone like Eva who has never been seen as a human, who has never attended a school and had friends, her self-realization and growth is astounding.

Eva aside, Sean is one of my favorite aspects of this book. I loved the romance in this story and while it broke my heart, it made me swoon in equal part too. One of the things I admire the most about Mandanna’s writing is that each and every character she introduces us to has their own depth, their own perspective, and she enables us to see that about them. In terms of Sean and Eva, they are perfect and just click. In terms of other characters and their relationships to Eva, we are somehow able to understand them too, despite their convoluted-ness at times. Furthermore, their responses to Amarra’s death and the exploration of grief which Mandanna brings out through them are all written flawlessly. It is difficult to explain, but just know that her writing brought tears to my eyes and there were sections of this novel where I had to constantly dab my eyes just to read the words on the page.

It pains me to admit, but my review for this novel is terrible. I loved this novel with a passion I have shown for very few books such as The Book Thief or anything written by Melina Marchetta, but it is difficult for me to put into words the beauty that this book has. It is written beautifully, it is character-driven, its cast contains depth, and its messages are provocative and sure to stick with you for days – if not years – to come. It is, hands down, the best debut I have had the pleasure of reading this year and is a novel I will, without a doubt, be reading again and again and again. I don’t know if there will be a sequel for this, especially as I am quite content with the open ending of this novel as it is, but if there is one, you can bet I’ll be groveling at Mandanna’s feet to receive an ARC. I really, really loved The Lost Girl. It takes a lot for a book to make me cry and even during The Book Thief or a Marchetta novel, I only cry once or twice. The Lost Girl? I was crying after Part I, during the beginning of Part II, after Part II, and on-and-off again during Part III. It was that type of novel. It is a story that truly makes you feel and it is so rare to read a novel like that these days. Truly, The Lost Girl is a gem in a genre of fiction I had nearly given up on, but just like Eva, Sangu Mandanna gives me hope for a glorious future. 

Virtual Tour! 

When I usually read books, I'm always that solitary reader who never knows what London or Dublin or San Francisco looks like, so I have to rely on my imagination to paint a picture of the scenery for me. Surprisingly, that was not the case with The Lost Girl. While much of this book is spent in England, an equal part is spent in the Bangalore, a city in South India where I've spent my summers for the past nine years at least, if not more. 

While Mandanna's descriptions of each and every place were spot-on and incredibly authentic, I thought I'd give you all a quick virtual tour of some of my favorite places that Eva visited in Bangalore, so I hope you enjoy this quick virtual tour of India! :) 

Inside View of the Garuda Mall
The Garuda Mall is a huge mall in Bangalore and it, if I am not mistaken, has five floors. I absolutely love this place as it's huge, sprawling, and is filled with every shop you could ever want, not to mention spas, massage centers, and a theater/cinema on the top floor which has all the latest movies along with an incredibly diverse food court. While they do have Indian movies, they also show American Films, so I always go there to catch up on any big movie releases I miss while spending my summer in India. Eva comes here quite often during her stay in Bangalore, so I'm sure you can see the appeal now! ;)

MG Road
In The Lost Girl, Eva also visits two roads quite often - MG Road and Church Street. While I believe Church Street is mentioned more often, I am more familiar with MG Road as it's one of the busiest roads in the city. It is filled with shops and restaurants though, so it's wonderful to spend a day just roaming through the stores there as well!

Cafe Coffee Day Logo
Cafe Coffee Day Interior
In addition to spending time in malls and streets with her friends, Eva visits Coffee Day very often. I guess Coffee Day is the equivalent of a Starbucks in India and it's a wonderful cafe to just sit and drink coffee with your friends. I actually go there quite often in the evenings sometimes, simply because I have a morning routine of drinking coffee with my grandparents on our balcony, but it's a wonderful coffee shop for sure! Indian Coffee, believe it or not, is very different from American Coffee and I actually prefer it in some ways, so I just adore this place!

Crossword Bookstore
I saved the best for the last, so my favorite place that Eva visits in Bangalore, and my favorite place anywhere, is, of course, A BOOK STORE! Crossword is a huge bookstore and while they don't always have the same books available in the US, since many UK/International release dates are later than the ones in the US, I think they're one of the best bookstores in India and always have the latest releases, which is rare in some other stores in different cities throughout the country. Eva visits Crossword in this novel, so I knew you would all appreciate this fantastic store just as much - if not more - than she did! :D

Crossword Bookstore
Well, that's my virtual tour of The Lost Girl, for you all! I was thrilled to have visited every place mentioned in this novel (while Eva was in India), so I couldn't resist sharing some of my knowledge of this city with you all. I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour (and review of course) and that you all pick up The Lost Girl soon. It's one of my favorite reads of the year and I simply cannot recommend it enough! :)

45 comments:

  1. Amazing review, Keertana! Ever since Wendy and Lyn gave it glowing reviews, this has been on my radar, but now seeing a five star review from you, I'm in a rush to read it now more than ever. And I love your virtual tour! Very original!

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    1. Thanks Blythe, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I really loved this book and I can't recommend it enough. I think you'll really enjoy this one, so I hope you get the opportunity to pick it up soon! :D

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  2. Aww don't think your review is terrible, Keertana. It's awwwweesome!! I also read Wendy's review of this and I immediately wanted to get my hands on it. But I'm also having second thoughts because I haaaaate tear-jerker books, that's why I've never read The Book Thief (but I want to read Melina). I think Eva's story is incredible but I feel sorry for her at the same time. I can't wait to read about the friends she made and Sean too! I feel like he's going to be my favorite character here too. XD

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    1. Aww, thank you Chel! I loved this book SO much and I'd highly recommend it, even though it is a tear-jerker. Honestly, those are the best kind of books and SEAN! How can he NOT be anyone's favorite character? ;) I can't wait till you read this one!

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  3. Wow, what a great review! I am now really looking forward to it.. even though it sounds like I'll get funny looks for crying ;)

    Loved the little tour, haven't seen anything like it!

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    1. Thanks Cassy! I loved this book and I hope you enjoy it too! I'll be looking out for your thoughts about it for sure!(:

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  4. It's a good thing I already own a copy, otherwise I'd be pulling my hair out right about now! Wonderful review, Keertana! We are similar in some ways, very critical and difficult to please, but when we love a book, we love it with all our hearts. I have a feeling this might be one of those books for me, as it was for you.
    And thank you so much for the virtual tour, I'll come back to it once I start reading for sure.
    Amazing review, dear!

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    1. Thanks Maja! I'm so glad you already have a copy of this one and I can't WAIT for you to read it now! I think you'll truly love this one as well, Maja, so I'm very excited to hear your thoughts about this! :D

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  5. Fantastic review....this book obviously spoke to you and all that crying....Yikes! I must now endeavor to get this book, you don't give high praise away easily and so this is now a must read for me!

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    1. Yay! I think you'll enjoy this one, Heidi, and it truly is SUCH a phenomenal book. I can't recommend it enough! :D

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  6. Great review! :)
    I really really want to read this book now. But my TBR pile is really high and I am on a book-buying ban. I hope I read it soon, though.
    I love the virtual tour idea.

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    1. Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed the virtual tour and I hope you're able to snag a copy of this one soon. It's amazing and I just loveee it, so I think you'll really enjoy it! :)

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  7. Wow, this is such a beautiful review Keertana. :) I really should pick it up soon to see why you, Wendy and a few other reviewers were raving so much about it. :) It's too bad I'm jaded after reading a number of terrible YA dystopian and fantasy books lately... *sigh* I will get to this soon however, promise. :)

    And the virtual tour, I love it! I think I've seen it done a few times before (The Midnight Garden, Catch the Lune...) and I'm starting to get the idea to do one of my own. :)

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    1. Yes, you MUST get to this one soon, Leanne! It's SO good! I loved it and I just know you'll appreciate it as well!

      I'd love to see you do a virtual tour too! I can't wait for it - and your review of this book! - now! :D

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  8. Ahhh your reviews always make me want to check out the book! After reading it, I put this on hold at my library as it's currently on order! I haven't heard a bad thing about this book so I am incredibly excited to read it. It sounds so amazing and I love that it affected you so much. Not a terrible review at all.

    Also, love your virtual tour! I would love to visit The Garuda Mall and Crossword. :D

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    1. Thanks Elena! I hope you get a chance to read this one soon as it is SO good! I loved it and I'm so glad I've convinced you to read this one! :)

      Yes, Garuda Mall is AMAZING as is Crossword. I love those two places! :D

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  9. What are you TALKING about? If I hadn't already read and loved this book, I would be salivating all over myself to get a copy of it! This review is amazing. And I freaking looooooove the virtual tour of Bangalore. Thank you so much for posting those, Keertana.

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    1. You're welcome, Wendy! I'm glad you enjoyed my virtual tour and thank you for your kind words about my review! If it wasn't for you I wouldn't even have picked this one up, so thank YOU! :D

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  10. Great review, Keertana. I love your virtual tour too, and look forward to reading this book as soon as possible :)

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    1. Yay! I can't wait till you pick this one up, Katja, and I'm so glad you enjoyed my virtual tour! :)

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  11. I really need to read this book Keertana! A heart-breaking and swoon-worthy relationship all in one? Yes, please. I'm already a little in love with Sean based on just the few things you had to say about him, and I LOVE that there's no love triangle and Eva knows exactly who her heart belongs too. Absolutely beautiful review!

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    1. Thanks Jenny! Yess, I am SO in love with Sean and the relationships in this book are beautifully written. I can't wait till you read this one, Jenny! :D

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  12. A wonderful tour and an equally wonderful review! All the best books have reviewers struggling to put sentences together, and that is pretty much indication enough. Of course, you did an amazing job with this one! If I hadn't already decided to pick this up one day, you would have more than surely convinced me. :) This book sounds beautiful and the premise has definitely caught my attention. I'm looking forward to reading it myself! :)

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    1. Yayy! I can't wait to see what you think of this one, Sam! I think it's a book you'll really love and grow to connect with and I'm so excited for you to read it now! :)

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  13. Keertana, that virtual tour is LEGIT! Thank you so much for writing that up! Like you, I thought THE LOST GIRL was jaw-droppingly amazing. It's definitely one of my faves this year. Great review (don't sell yourself short, girl!). :)
    - Lauren

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    1. Aww, thank you Lauren! I'm glad you enjoyed my virtual tour and yes, The Lost Girl really was jaw-droppingly amazing. No other way to put it! :)

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  14. Fabulous review Keertana! :) I want to read this, especially when your love of the writing is equaled to your love of Melina's writing! Love the virtual tour! Awesome!! Did you take those pictures?

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    1. Yay, I'm so glad you loved the virtual tour, Rachel! Plus, I think you'll just love this one and can't wait to see what you think of it. I didn't take those pictures, but I've been to all those places and do have pictures of them myself. I just have my family in them as well, so I opted to use images from Google instead, but they're legit, don't worry! ;)

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  15. There's only a single line that I greatly dislike in your review, "It pains me to admit, but my review for this novel is terrible. QUITE THE OPPOSITE.

    Not even kidding, your review had my heart both splintering over Eva's situation and pounding in excitement because goddamn, The Lost Girl sounds like everything I've been yearning for in a book lately. If I'm feeling emotional over Eva's plight from just a secondhand account of the story, then I can only imagine what effect the actual book will have on me.

    This is obviously a very, very Special Shelf novel and your review has absolutely done it justice. And I love your virtual tour!! The Garuda Mall.... five floors? That... blows my mind. I have never been to a mall with more than ONE floor haha. Eva also visits a coffee store and book store?! I LOVE THIS GIRL ALREADY. I think it's awesome that you've visited all these places yourself, it makes it all the more exciting to read about them.

    This post? Love love love love x infinity and beyond. I'm not even sure I can wait until the Australian release to get my hands on this now!!

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    1. Wait...this hasn't released in Australia? O.o. I didn't know that! Gosh, here I thought books always released later in the US. Well, you still get all the amazing Aussie releases, so no complaining! ;)

      Aww, thank you for your kind words, Brodie! I'm glad you enjoyed my review and honestly, this book is even more fantastic. It truly transports you into Eva's heart and mind and I just LOVED it. It really is one of my all-time favorites!(:

      YES, five floors! The mall I shop at in the US has two floors and I've been to one with three, but the Garuda Mall is just amazing! Yes, what's NOT to love about Eva? She. Is. Awesomeee!

      I can't wait till you read this one, Brodie, so I'll be waiting anxiously for this to release in Australia now! :D

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  16. I loved the tour. I have to say Crossword was my favourite place. Well, US are just too lucky getting all the new releases with everything. They dominante everything and it's unfair! :(

    Still, I like the idea of the characters in-depth exploration and them having lots to offer.

    This book isn't out for a long time in the UK, so I'll have to wait again.

    I'm looking forward to this though after all the gushing you've had to do.

    I liked the different style with the virtual tour you've taken on in this novel, Keertana! :)

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    1. You have a Crossword too? I love that store!(: Well...some books release in the UK earlier, so we're even...kind of! ;)

      I hope you can pick up a copy of this when it releases in the UK because it's just SO good. I love it and it's one of my favorites this year. I'm also so glad you enjoyed the virtual tour, Olivia, so yayy! :D

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  17. Keertana, UGH. Your review is AMAZING.
    Seriously, I can feel how much you loved this, and I love how you've described the subtleties and poignancy of death and grief yet... this inability to do so, filling a space that's truly unable to be filled, and this issue of identity. AMAZING ♥

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    1. Thanks Sarah!(: I'm so glad I was able to truly convey the depth of my love and admiration for this piece as it was just PERFECT. I hope you get a chance to read it soon as it's just so, SO, good! :D

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  18. Yessss... I am 100% in agreement with everything you said in your review! I had NO idea just how powerful this book was going to be when I jumped on an ARC tour of it but I am so glad I did because this is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year as well!

    This book had me crying pretty much the whole way through but I walked away from it feeling so hopeful even with all that Eva endured. It's such a smart book yet so entertaining, I just can't speak highly enough about it or Sangu Mandanna. This book is one of a handful I have read this year that I pimp to everyone I know. I want the masses to experience it because, darn it, I REALLY want a sequel! I need more Eva, Sean and Mina Ma in my life:)

    Oh, and thank you for the virtual tour! That was all sorts of awesome:)

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