2012’s What’s Left of Me is the first volume in Kat Zhang’s Hybrid Chronicles.
Alone of all the world’s regions, only the Americas have chosen to eliminate the two-minded adult hybrids, to seal themselves off from the chaos that hybrids cause. The rest of the world can have its Great Wars, but North and South America are secure, peaceful, and steadfastly conventional.
Like all human children everywhere, Eva and Addie were born as hybrids, two minds sharing a single body. Most New World children settle, a process in which the weaker of the two minds fades away, leaving only a single, stable, intellect. Although clearly fated to vanish, Eva lingered on, unable to control the shared body, but still present. Despite the best treatments modern medicine could offer, it seemed the child was doomed to be one of those unfortunates safely sequestered away from decent folk.
Eva_and_Addie eluded institutionalization by embracing the one technique that would keep the adults satisfied. They lied.
Still double-minded, Eva_and_Addie pretend only Addie remains. One body, one mind, and the adults (while still aware of the child’s alarming medical history) stop paying close attention to the child. They believe it won’t be necessary to dispatch them to some dour asylum for life. The duo’s pretense requires constant vigilance to avoid exposing their secret, but thus far it has been successful.
What self-deluding adults miss, other hybrids (those who are passing, those who have successfully concealed their nature) notice. Hally Mullan is actually Hally_and_Lissa. Hally_and_Lissa, like their brother Ryan_and_Devon, are as double-minded as Eva_and_Addie. Behaviours that seem merely a little eccentric to adults are obvious tells to Hally_and_Lissa. Motivated by a desire to help a fellow hybrid, Hally_and_Lissa befriend Eva_and_Addie. The revelation that Hally_and_Lissa are a fellow hybrid initially provokes alarm, but the companionship of a fellow hybrid is too much to pass up. The alternative is a life spent in solitude in a society that fears and persecutes adult hybrids.
The downside of befriending fellow hybrids is that if they are caught, their friends may be caught as well. Ryan has enough time to warn Eva_and_Addie to run before he is detained. Eva_and_Addie fail to take advantage of this warning in time. Handed over to the medical authorities by their own well-meaning parents, Eva_and_Addie (along with Ryan_and_Devon and Hally_and_Lissa) are sent away to the Nornand Clinic of Psychiatric Health.
Most hybrid asylums are mere holding facilities, prisons whose inhabitants will never leave. Nornand is a progressive facility, determined to cure the hybrids of their lamentable condition. Never mind that the hybrids don’t want to be cured. The hybrids are clearly ill; their denial that they are ill proves that they are.
Progress comes at a cost. Medical science does not fully understand why some people remain hybrids and other do not. Treatments are hit-or-miss. New treatments are, alas, sometimes fatal. But you cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs. To Nornand, Eva_and_Addie are just another egg…
The scientists of the time believe that the propensity for adults to remain hybrids has a strong genetic component. Accordingly, the government has carried out a long-running eugenics program to eliminate the unwanted genes from the New World gene pool. More accurately, they have committed (and are committing) a long running genocide, to the point that even a moderately unusual phenotype is grounds for suspicion that someone is foreign. Not that they would call it genocide. This is mere housecleaning. The state is quite open about the means used to produce an adult population free of hybrids.
This book is either set in an alternate universe or it’s our future and the government has falsified vast swaths of history. Various lines of evidence suggest strongly that it’s set in the future; whatever caused hybrids to appear was recent, and the actual history of the world was very different from the one the government promotes. Eva_and_Addie’s America is one where people don’t travel much, where telecommunications are primitive that so double-checking official histories would be tricky. Not only that, but one senses that asking the wrong questions could warrant a visit from the authorities.
There are a number of real world inspirations Zhang might be drawing on here. While I am not sure which ones they might be, it doesn’t really matter. I expect the novel’s intended teen age audience includes any number of people for whom openly being who they are would be dangerous indeed.
The first in its series, What’s Left of Me is busy establishing the setting and introducing characters and conflicts. Nothing is actually resolved. That said, while the grander arc is left open, the novel does function as an actual novel, rather than being the first 343 pages of an ongoing story. Still, readers might want to track down all three books before starting.