Once We Were - Kat Zhang You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews.Thank you Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC of this book!The first blink was followed by the first breath. Then the second. The third.Addie was gone, and I was still here, sitting on the bed.Alone.The word echoed through the empty chambers of my mind.Nobody but I knew.I curled our fingers into a fist, harder and harder until our nails bit a painful line across the center of our palm. Then I studied the stair-step pattern of red crescent moons etched into our skin.The silence in the room––in our head––was enormous. It seemed at once a great, untouchable emptiness and some stifling, half-living thing that might, at any moment, break down the door hiding me from the rest of the world.Summary:The second book in the Hybrid Chronicles (the first book being [b:What's Left of Me|11043618|What's Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1)|Kat Zhang|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1329477948s/11043618.jpg|15964230]) returns to the same world in which each person is born with two souls. At some point, one soul becomes dominant, and the recessive soul is supposed to fade away completely.Eva and Addie share one body, and neither of them ever disappeared. For a long time, the two of them pretended that Eva had gone dormant––but Eva is still there inside Addie's head. When their secret was discovered, they were taken to a government facility where they were supposed to be "cured," but they escaped the cruel experimentation before Eva could be torn away from Addie.Now they are part of a group of other hybrids who run a secret resistance group. For the first time in their life, Eva and Addie don't have to hide their hybridity, and they can learn new skills from people who are like them. Most importantly, they can learn how to temporarily disappear so that they can have turns with absolute privacy. But as they become more deeply involved in the violent rebellion, Eva and Addie begin to question how far they're willing to go to win their freedom. The two girls are beginning to clash with each other like they never have before, and their differences could tear them apart. My thoughts:I was thrilled to get an ARC of Once We Were. I read What's Left of Me earlier this summer not knowing what to expect from it, and it was a pleasant surprise. I found the concept fresh and intriguing, and it had an engaging plot and writing style. It was mysterious and innovative, and I was excited to see what the sequel had to offer.I've been digesting it for a while now, and I think I might have liked it even more than the first book. Neither book is perfect, and there are still some things I'm confused about. But I think Once We Were did a fantastic job of raising the stakes and complicating the plot in a very compelling way.What I liked:- A lot of what I loved about the first book was present in the sequel. The idea is really cool, and it's not quite like anything I've ever read before. I guess there have been similar ideas before about two people possessing one body, but I think Kat Zhang takes an original spin on it. - Zhang's writing is wonderful. The descriptions are vivid, the words flow so nicely on the page. It's just so … delicious. The style always keeps me interested.- So often, the second book in a series will fall flat. In a lot of other series I've read, especially in trilogies, the second book wanders in this awkward in-between stage where it just feels like it's setting up for the next book and serves little other purpose. But I felt that Once We Were did what a second book is supposed to do––yes, it does set up for the next book and has a lot of build-up, but it also has its own contained plot. It's very different from the first book without separating from it too much, and it's not repetitive of the first book (which a lot of sequels often are). Probably the strongest aspect of this book is that it raises the stakes so well. In this second installment, we see Eva and Addie really start to realize their individuality. In the first book, they were so attached to each other (both figuratively and literally), and the bond between them felt unbreakable. While they still love each other in the sequel, we see Eva come to realize that she wants to control her own body and be her own person. It's so complicated, because the two girls want to give each other more control, and at the same time they're so afraid of being separated. And now they're involved in such a dangerous situation in which their disagreements could ruin the bond that they have. It's such a nerve-wracking dilemma … It's the kind of book where I don't know what on earth I would do if I was in the protagonist's shoes, and I love how terrifying that feeling is. (Not because it's terrifying necessarily, but because I feel so strongly about it.)What didn't work for me:- I was hoping for more answers in this book, and … well, I didn't really get them. There's still a chance that more will be revealed in the next book. But, I'm still confused about the whole premise of the book. Yes, I love it as a concept, but I don't understand why it's happening. I don't know if I'm just missing something, but … why is it that everyone is born with two souls? Is this an alternate version of our world, or is it our world in the future? And if it is the future, how did this happen? Alien invasion? Pollution? Disease? … Who knows. I don't necessarily care about not knowing, because there's something I sort of like about how mysterious it is in that regard. On the other hand, I feel like there should be at least a hint of an explanation.- On top of that, I still don't really understand why hybrids are considered so dangerous and why the government is so paranoid about them. Everyone is always just like, "EEEK HYBRIDS, THEY ARE CRAZY AND THEY'RE GOING TO KILL US ALLLL." But … I don't really understand why everyone feels that way.However, I'm kind of willing to let this slide. I don't really understand it, but on the other hand, I guess it's not that different from what the world is like in real life. There are prejudices against people for all kinds of ridiculous reasons––their race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. And none of those prejudices make an ounce of sense, either. So the fact that this fictional world is afraid of people who have a "different" characteristic that they can't control and that has no impact on others at all … Hmm, yeah, I guess that's not that implausible. - I wish the characters were a bit stronger. I like the concept and the plot and the writing style so much … but I don't feel much of a connection to the characters themselves. It gets confusing when there are so many characters all sharing bodies with each other and whatnot. It's a scenario in which the distinctions between the characters should be made really strong and clear––and I just don't see that. I don't see much of a difference personality-wise between Eva and Addie or between any of the other double-identities of the other hybrids. Everyone just kind of acts and talks the same way, and I had trouble keeping track of who was who. In addition, it makes it kind of difficult to be invested in the romance. It's like … I don't care that much who Eva or Addie is interested in, because I feel like the people around them aren't that different from each other.The final word:I still love the concept of this series; it's creative and it's different. The sequel does a good job of keeping up the intrigue and adding a great sense of tension. I would like to see some stronger world-building and character development. But I am very invested in the story itself, and I'm excited to see what happens in the next book.~ Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews ~