It has been a significant amount of time since I’ve been able to fully immerse myself in a YA novel. Rebecca Hanover’s The Similars managed to engage me thoroughly throughout my reading experience. The book itself is set in a futuristic setting where technology has developed and expanded. Students have “plums” instead of phones with a high-functioning Siri-like feature that they can communicate with and is used to keep track of vital things, such as their health. Clones are present and living in the world. The context for having clones existing is not for the typical tropes that I am used to when reading dystopian/sci-fi novels. This premise uses the idea of clones for grieving parents, couples wanting to conceive or for scientific research.
When six clones join Emmaline’s prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend’s face each day in class.
The Similars are all anyone can talk about at the elite Darkwood Academy. Who are these six clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? Who is the madman who broke the law to create them? Emma couldn’t care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and all she can think about is how to get through her junior year without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver’s exact DNA replica and one of the Similars.
Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, but she keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into their clique, uncovering dark truths about the clones and her prestigious school along the way. But no one can be trusted…not even the boy she is falling for who has Oliver’s face.
What fundamentally is present in this book is the theme of diversity and discrimination. The clones represent issues that are essentially evident in our current situation. While the students and characters created by Rebecca Hanover are beautifully diverse, the clones portray the issue humans have struggled with for many years; the fear of others that are different or not similar to us. Though the clones are essentially just DNA strands built in a lab, they still act and feel like we do. Characters such as Madison, creating rallies and anti-clone protests, show the repeating of history that we see throughout our own past.
Everything that is needed in order to create a fantastic set-up is here. There isn’t a two dimensional character used to further a story-line, every person written has a backstory, a cause and isn’t evil or good. As is with most cases in real life, none of the characters act out of pure vengeance or non-sensical reasoning. They all have a motive and a rationale to acting and feeling how they do. Many times I ended up sympathising with characters I didn’t think I would.
While there is the standard set-up for a YA novel alongside the inevitable cliff-hanger for a presumable sequel, I think Rebecca Hanover managed to maintain a unique and innovative new voice in this genre. I was drawn into the plot, intrigued by the characters and, I’ll admit, a little bit curious as to how the series will further continue. I was introduced to this title on a “Released in 2019” list on GoodReads and am pleasantly surprised to be praising this novel as much as I am. Especially being a debut novel, I am eager to see what the next one will hold as it will most definitely be on my to-buy list as soon as there is a release date.
Language & Style: 8 points
Story: 8 points
Characters: 8 points
Plot: 8 points
Total: 32/40 points
Favourite Quote: “The beautiful spines of the old books offer so much promise. I pull a book at random. War and Peace. It’s heavy. Digital books have no weight, no heft. That is part of why I love physical books.”