High school is hard enough without having to deal with the clone of your dead best friend. In The Similars by Rebecca Hanover, Emmaline Chance’s junior year at her prestigious boarding school is about to get complicated.
Returning to Darkwood Academy for her junior year is difficult for Emma, who is still reeling from her best friend Oliver’s suicide over the summer. Things become nearly impossible when their six newest enrollees – all of them clones of current students – are introduced, and Levi is the spitting image of Oliver. The Similars, as that’s what they call themselves, claim that they’re only there to get an education, but this situation is not what it seems.
On the surface, The Similars presents an intriguing philosophical question: what rights should a human clone have? It is especially an issue for the six clones of Darkwood Academy students, who were created without the knowledge of the originals and raised on a secluded island by a reclusive billionaire. Are they American citizens? Do they deserve a place in the families of the students they were cloned from? There are so many opportunities for an intelligent discussion, but unfortunately this book offers none.
The Similars is a convoluted mess that bounces from one “twist” to another with no thought or explanation. It makes sense when you learn that Hanover writes for soap operas; the original plot of clones and whatever they’re up to is enough without tossing in a secretive student government that serves no real purpose, an anonymous pro-clone group that is only introduced near the end, people faking their death, paternity twists, and more. This book is so full that after a certain point, the revelations have no impact, nor do they leave any lasting impression. Events where you would expect the author to linger are glossed over quickly so that we can move on to the next “shocking” twist. This is the first book in a series, and it seems unnecessary to have packed so much into what really should be a setup novel.
It doesn’t help that pretty much every character save for Emma is woefully underdeveloped, and even she feels flat as a protagonist. I felt no attachment to anyone; they were all interchangeable conduits for the overly complex plot. You can spot the romance coming from a mile away, yet it still feels like it comes out of nowhere and makes very little sense.
As interesting a concept as The Similars is, the execution is sloppy. It was like reading a script rather than a novel – it isn’t that there’s no internal dialogue or exposition, but it was all very straightforward and not very compelling.
The Similars by Rebecca Hanover is published by Sourcebooks Fire and is available January 1 wherever books are sold.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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