Book Review: Ringer by Lauren Oliver

36299564Ringer by Lauren Oliver

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 502

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Like its ambitious companion novel, Replica, this far-reaching novel by powerhouse bestselling author Lauren Oliver digs deep into questions of how to be a human being in a world where humanity cannot be taken for granted.

In the world outside the Haven Institute, Lyra and Caelum are finding it hard to be human—and neither of them knows where they belong or who they can trust. When Caelum leaves without warning to pursue the dream of a place he belongs, Lyra follows him, convinced that together they will hunt down a cure for the illness that’s slowly consuming her mind. But what they uncover is a shocking connection to their past—even as their future seems in danger of collapsing.

After discovering the uncomfortable truth about her connection to the Haven Institute, Gemma struggles to return to her normal life. But when she learns that her controlling and powerful father has new plans for Lyra and Caelum, Gemma and her boyfriend, Pete, leave in the middle of the night to warn them of the danger they face.When an untimely accident derails them, they are mistaken for the escaped replicas and seized by strangers hired to capture them. The Haven Institute wasn’t destroyed after all, and now Gemma is the one behind the walls.

Lyra’s and Gemma’s stories can be read separately—with either story first—or in alternating chapters, but no matter which way you turn the book, the two distinct stories combine into one breathtaking experience for both heroines and readers alike.

Ringer is the second, and final, book in Lauren Oliver’s Replica duology. You can read my review of the first book here. Before reading, I wondered why it was called Ringer, and having finished I was still none the wiser. It seemed like they decided it should start with an ‘R’ and plucked a random word out the dictionary. So I looked it up, and a ringer is someone or something that looks like something else. Essentially another word to describe a replica. Interestingly, while a replica is exactly the same, a ringer seems to mean that they look very alike but are not exactly the same. This seems rather fitting, since Ringer explores the question of whether the replicas are ‘human’ and whether they can be distinguished from one another. So it’s actually a well thought out choice for a title.

For those not familiar with the series, Ringer (like Replica) includes the stories of Gemma and Lyra, with the book formatted as two separate halves that has to be ‘flipped’. They can be read one half after the other, either way around, or in alternating chapters. When I read the first book, I read Lyra’s story first then Gemma’s, whereas this time I read Gemma’s story first and then Lyra’s.

Unfortunately I found Gemma’s half a little boring, so it didn’t do a good job of drawing me into the story. I felt that not much happened and Gemma was put very much in the position of a reactive character rather than an active character. Things were happening to her, rather than her having any agency, which meant it didn’t feel like there was much drive in the plot.

I found Lyra’s half much more engaging. More happened and Lyra had a goal she was aiming for, so I felt more invested in her story than Gemma’s. It was really interesting seeing how Lyra’s view of the world is so limited due to being kept in Haven, and how she misinterprets people and situations because of the way she has been kept away from society.

Lauren Oliver has an almost poetic way of writing. She describes things in metaphor a lot, and the way she writes it, I understood everything she was describing. The way she writes her descriptions feels very immersive.

I liked the way the book explores questions of humanity and how we identify ourselves based on how others have identified us. To get the full meaning of the book, you really do have to read both halves, so you can’t appreciate the book’s overall effect and message until you’ve finished reading. I had much more appreciation for the complex story and concept Oliver explored after I’d finished the book than while I was actually reading it.

If you haven’t read it yet, I would consider reading it in alternating chapters. The main reason I didn’t read it that way was because I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of flipping the book over. However, I think it might make the story less slow to read it that way.

I only gave Ringer 3 stars, as I gave Replica 4 stars, and enjoyed the first book much more. There was more driving the first book, more tension and more to hold my interest. It is still an interesting concept though, and I’m glad I read the series.

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