Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Half Life!
Title: Half Life
Author: LIlian Clark
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 9 June 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Synopsis:An overachiever enrolls in an experimental clone study to prove that two (of her own) heads are better than one in this fast-paced, near-future adventure that’s Black Mirror meets Becky Albertalli.There aren’t enough hours in the day for Lucille–perfectionist, overachiever–to do everything she has to do, and there certainly aren’t enough hours to hang out with friends, fall in love, get in trouble–all the teenage things she knows she should want to be doing instead of preparing for a flawless future. So when she sees an ad for Life2: Do more. Be more, she’s intrigued.The company is looking for beta testers to enroll in an experimental clone program, and in the aftermath of a series of disappointments, Lucille is feeling reckless enough to jump in. At first, it’s perfect: her clone, Lucy, is exactly what she needed to make her life manageable and have time for a social life. But it doesn’t take long for Lucy to become more Lucy and less Lucille, and Lucille is forced to stop looking at Lucy as a reflection and start seeing her as a window–a glimpse at someone else living her own life, but better. Lucy does what she really wants to, not what she thinks she should want to, and Lucille is left wondering how much she was even a part of the perfect life she’d constructed for herself. Lucille wanted Lucy to help her relationships with everyone else, but how can she do that without first rectifying her relationship with herself?
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Warnings: mild body horror
A contemporary science fiction that brings questions of consciousness and personhood to the fore, Half Life is the story of a girl who gets herself cloned to manage her life. Lucille who thought her parents’ marriage was perfect, seeing them separate, and herself having fought with her only friend, and basically tired of choosing between being perfect friend, perfect daughter, perfect student, gets roped into a secret experimental trial run by Life-squared, where her body and her consciousness would be cloned into another, called Lucy, and they both would be divvying up Lucille’s life between them for a month in a ‘field trial’, after which Lucy would go back to the Life-squared to be their ‘floor model’ for investors and clients.
Now, I don’t know about you, but once, in the depths of a ‘bad time’ where I found myself unable to leave my home, I had fantasized about having a much braver (read ‘stable’) self go out and live out my life’s obligations while I could be at home and work on fixing myself. Which is why I sort of related to Lucille’s desire to have a second self so that she can live up to every expectation of herself. What she didn’t count on was Lucy being a whole person in her own right, and not just an extension of Lucille. Lucy, who has Lucille’s memories but not her ‘experience’ has the ability to see her (Lucille’s) past actions from a slight distance, and because of the separation of self from those memories, she also doesn’t have Lucille’s insecurities; instead, Lucy has rage – rage that she can’t even have a life where she is treated as a person beyond this field trial. Lucille basically checks out of her regular life when Lucy first arrives, and they both don’t interact much; Lucille’s messes which are now Lucy’s to work through lead to resentment, and she fights back in small ways.
I’m stuck in this rancid swamp of Lucille’s making, and I’m tasked with defending her? Except, that’s pretty perfect, isn’t it. I don’t just exist because of her. I exist for her.
There were hints of Frankenstein’s themes in the story, but not the horror part, but the whole existential debate. Lucy, while grown from the same cells and same memories as Lucille, has a different perspective because of her not being considered a person, and so this fuels another side of Lucille’s (or in this case, Lucy’s) ‘personality’. She is able to see more clearly than her Original where the latter made mistakes, and Lucille, when her lies and evasions come to roost, finally realizes what she is doing to Lucy. I liked their individual perspectives and how their relationships with people were developed in their respective circumstances, though I feel the ending sort of skips over realizing those arcs to completion, because we don’t see how they get the people in their lives to understand and forgive them. Additionally, the start of the novel is quite slow until like a third of the book, and I found myself putting it down more often until Lucy’s entrance, at which point the story really gained my interest.
I was supposed to be done failing, done coming up short. With two of me, there wasn’t supposed to be any question. Do more. Be more. Both, everything, all of it. Perfect girlfriend, perfect daughter, perfect student, perfect friend. This was my way to be perfect. And yet. How can there be two of me, and I’m still not enough?
Overall, I liked the themes of the book, the exploration of having a self, the pressures of fulfilling expectations and learning to forgive yourself for falling short. Lucy truly steals the show with her narrative.
You can read an excerpt here
Lillian Clark, a graduate of the University of Wyoming, grew up riding horses, climbing trees, and going on grand imaginary adventures in the small-town West. She’s worked as a lifeguard, a camp counselor, and a Zamboni driver, but found her eternal love working as a bookseller at an independent bookstore. Now living in Teton Valley, Idaho with her husband, son, and two giant dogs, she spends her time reading almost anything and writing books for teens
Win a copy of HALF LIFE and IMMORAL CODE by Lillian Clark (US Only)