Lauren Oliver’s flip-book Replica was an exciting adventure that had me endlessly flipping through pages, eager to find out more. Getting to the last chapter of Lyra’s side, so much was still going on that I somehow believed there were more chapters to come, but then, it ended. Just like that. Not to worry, though, because once I flipped to Gemma’s side and began reading, I realized that all the answers and more were to come.
Lyra’s side initially has a dystopian feel to it while you are within the white walls of the Haven Institute, before the replicas Lyra and 72 escape, a scene so graphic and tense that it plays like a memorable Hollywood war scene in my head. As the replica Lyra is introduced to the world outside of Haven, the secret institute the Replicas are kept at, she suddenly causes you to become vastly aware of all that we have and may take for granted in modern civilization. Though Lyra admires how the humans appear to be free and their world to be luxurious compared to her world in Haven, she is frightened by how big the world seems to be, just as a child might feel.
Lyra has a child-like innocence about her until the end of the story. By then, she is the one who consoles 72 when he becomes discouraged for the first time. She becomes sort of like a heroine in that aspect, as she has learned to grow up and become wiser living in the real world. Though, she had always been extremely clever when it came to sneaking past the nurses and the Glass Eyes while she was at Haven. Once in the real world, she immediately puts her intuition and cunning ways to the test as she becomes a sort of Nancy Drew, finding clues that lead to more clues or answers. While 72 plays a strong male character that comforts Lyra and makes her feel protected along the way, she is the one who comes up with all the ideas and convinces him to trust her judgment. Though she has been taught to believe that men are generally stronger than women, she proves to be emotionally and mentally stronger in the end.
Initially, reading Lyra’s side, Gemma contrasts Lyra’s character because she seems very confident and in control of situations on the surface, whereas Lyra does not openly act this way. Ironically, though, as you read Gemma’s side, you find that, while Lyra is apprehensive on the surface yet keen and self-reassuring on the inside, Gemma appears to be strong-minded on the outside, and is actually more reserved, anxious and scared on the inside. The two girls’ lives parallel each other and, while they both have never gone against their home life before, they are quick and clever on their journey. Their inner qualities of strength and determination are inspiring to read.
The female protagonists, Lyra and Gemma, are similar in that neither of them plays a “damsel in distress” role, even when they really are a damsel in distress. The girls’ interactions with the male characters are mirrored because they are both unfamiliar with the opposite sex. The institution kept the replicas of opposite sex separate, and Gemma had never had any boyfriends or male friends. They both experience questionable feelings, pay attention to the smallest details, feel the romantic tension building up, and harbor admiring thoughts that slow down time. While this is new to them both, I can appreciate how neither of them becomes dependent on the males they are paired with on their adventure.
As the main characters are brought together in the story, it becomes exciting to watch their relationships grow. Lyra’s relationship with 72, the boy she escaped Haven with, is curious to watch since neither of them had ever been around the opposite sex before. A love is seen to grow between them, but it is hesitant, innocent and delicate, which makes it all the more endearing to watch. Gemma and Lyra’s interactions are limited on Lyra’s side so you don’t see much growth between them right away, but each time they are together you can feel a natural underlying bond between them. Even the smallest moments between all the characters felt so intimate, for the author paid very close attention to each of them.
I didn’t want Lyra’s story to end when it did, especially because it drops bombs on you right before, but I was relieved to find that Gemma’s side had much more to tell. It was so thrilling to see the tiny but significant details click and suddenly make sense once reading the other point-of-view. The novel is emotional and riveting, as each page leaves you desperate to see what is going to happen next or to discover another clue that will bring you one step closer to finding out the truth behind the Haven Institute. I believe that it is a perfect book for conspiracy theorists, as well as a great example of female heroine protagonists that don’t need a man to save them. Love and romance are of course undeniably essential in life, but it is more of their discovery and reward, rather than their motivation.
Lauren Oliver is a NYC-based award-winning author. Replica was published in October via HarperCollins. Grab a copy at your local bookseller or order it online.