The Originals is a young adult novel about three identical-looking girls forced to live a single life. One of them goes to school in the morning, another in the afternoon, and the third goes out in the evenings. Whenever one of them is out of the house, the other two have to remain hidden at home. No one can suspect that Elizabeth Best is actually the combined front for Lizzie, Betsey, and Ella. Their mother has her reasons for making them live like this, they believe. But as the girls approach their 17th birthday, two of them fall for different boys at school, and their carefully constructed existence begins to crumble.
I found this an intriguing, if not entirely plausible, premise. Like Lizzie's boyfriend, Sean, I didn't fully understand why the girls would put up with living such an odd, segmented life. But Patrick sprinkled in enough suspense regarding the mother's secrets, another look-alike in a different city, and possible enemies tracking the girls down, to keep me up late reading.
In truth, much of The Originals reads more like a young adult romance than the speculative fiction / suspense suggested by the premise. This is not a bad thing. I liked Lizzie and Sean's relationship - particularly a chapter in which they just spend the afternoon at his house. She meets his mother. They take pictures of each other. He loans her socks. It's all very ordinary and sweet. But it's definitely a contrast to the girls' normally bizarre and stressful situation.
Lizzie is a strong character. Her situation magnifies typical teen self-reflection. She isn't always sure who she is, except in relation to her sisters. She bubbles over with anger sometimes, but has a delightfully snarky humor, too. Like this:
"And I hate chicken," I add, which is among the most untrue statements ever uttered. But I'm still mad at her, and I'm boycotting chicken to prove it. Or at least I'm telling her I am; you never know what'll happen when dinnertime rolls around." (Chapter Eight)
Patrick does a good job of giving the three girls distinct personalities, despite their outward similarities. Their interactions with one another come across as surprisingly realistic (given, you know, the not so everyday setup). Lizzie's relationship with Sean is a little ... rose-colored, but nice to see.
The Originals is an enjoyable romp, with an unusual premise, and an interesting perspective on a teen's developing sense of self. It's a bit of a romance / speculative fiction hybrid, falling on the tamer end of the spectrum relative to books like Altered, Yesterday, or Beta. I think it could be a bridge book for younger teens, preparing them for some of these other books. There's no sex or violence in the Originals (only some kissing, a not-particularly-scary kidnapping, and some sneaking around behind the mother's back). Which, now that I think about it, is kind of refreshing. The Originals is well worth a look.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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