This is one of those cool books that is two, two, two books in one! Actually, it's one story told from the perspectives of two very different characters: Gemma and Lyra. In addition to being a fantastic story on its own, Replica also explores how we all perceive reality a bit differently.
Lyra is a clone. Actually, that's a bad word. Everyone is supposed to say "model," but no one does. She doesn't expect much from her life; she's certainly a lot luckier than the Purples or the Yellows, who either died as babies or from quick-acting degenerative diseases. No one working at Haven sees her, or any of her fellow clones, as humans. They're worse than animals--abominations against nature, and all of the staff make their disgust crystal clear. Lyra remembers one doctor--Dr. O'Donnell--who looked at them as if they were actually human. She gave them the power to name themselves, starting with the constellations, and taught Lyra how to read.
Lyra should not have a name. She should only be a number: 24, to be precise. But the power granted her by words makes her strong and a little bit reckless: she plans to steal her medical file to figure out what, exactly, the scientists want with her. But the successful escape of one of the male clones throws the facility into turmoil, and everything Lyra has ever known is suddenly gone.
Gemma hates her life. She's constantly sick, and even when she feels okay, her parents' restrictions stifle her. Barred from basically any physical activity, Gemma is super-conscious about her weight, always worrying that her stomach protrudes too much, or that her shorts strain against her legs. Even when your father is a famous and wealthy businessman, that doesn't mean happiness and popularity and health.
So when Gemma's best friend, April, has the chance to visit her grandparents in Florida for spring break, it's their chance to get away and break free. But the great Geoffrey Ives can't have his daughter being merely sixty miles from Haven. After a frightening encounter with a strange man who asks her "What do you know about Haven?", Gemma's curiosity in Haven is piqued. Soon, she finds herself running off with Pete, a guy in her class. Down to Florida. Down to find Haven.
I don't want to spoil the book, which I totally will if I go any farther, but I do want to say that all of the characters are complex and engaging. The settings are perfectly rendered, so vividly that I could feel the Florida Death Heat on my skin, smell the loamy rot of the swamp, and be blinded by Gemma's perfectly maintained mansion. I was transported to a future that is both familiar and frightening, and I loved every moment.
At first, I felt uncomfortable with Gemma constantly talking about being "overweight." But the more I read, the more I realized that her feelings are completely authentic. I was a mildly fat teen--let's go with chubby--and I know what it feels like to think that you're not pretty because your stomach pooches out, or because you're bigger than other girls. I know that feeling that your self-worth is directly tied to your pants size is a real feeling. It's a horrible, sucky feeling, but that doesn't make it any less valid. And rest assured, Gemma does not end up stronger at the end because she loses weight. It's all about the strength that she gains.
The big question, I think, is "How do I read this book?" IceyBooks recommended reading it in alternating chapters, which takes a bit more time, but is totally worth it. By reading Gemma and Lyra's accounts of the same events back-to-back, the concept that we create our own reality really shines through. To be honest, I often got so caught up in one girl's story that I'd forget to switch, and then spend time catching up on the other side of the book.
Honestly: pre-order or put this on hold at your local library as soon as you possibly can. It is, indeed, epic. Now please excuse me while I go execute some fangirl flails.
I received this ARC from the publisher at BEA 2016.