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Replica

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Replica Book Poster Image
Two clever but unsatisfying tales of clones and conspiracy.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Information on and discussion of biomedical and ethical issues around cloning humans and using humans to test diseases.

Positive Messages

It's important to keep fighting for what is right -- even if it is dangerous to do so -- and to trust your friends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gemma and Lyra find themselves in extreme circumstances and discover that they are stronger and more resilient than they knew. April is a good and supportive friend to Gemma. Pete is a goofball but really comes through for Gemma in many dangerous situations. A loner by nature, Jake learns to trust Gemma and works with her. Even though Haven is an impersonal research facility, a few doctors and nurses nurture and encourage the patients, even though doing so is against the rules.

Violence

Gemma deals with verbal bullying and fat-shaming in school. Stranger grabs a teen girl, possibly to kidnap her, but she gets away. Rocks are thrown through a house window with threatening note. Aftermath of a suicide bombing is described, including dead bodies, blown-off body parts, and blood. Man kidnaps two teens at gunpoint. One character has a flashback to having her head held underwater as punishment. Nurses and other employees grab and shove patients at Haven.

Sex

Not much sexual activity or contact, but a lot of sexual longing. Gemma's interactions with Jake and Pete are often characterized by what she finds attractive about them and whether she thinks they find her attractive. Same with Lyra, though because she's a replica, her interactions are more about figuring out what attraction is. Both stories have some kissing. Gemma references once practicing oral sex on a cucumber. She also makes lots of jokes about Pete being a "perv" and April being "horny."

Language

Swearing is infrequent and mostly used as exclamations, including "f--k" and variations, "s--t" and variations, "goddamn," "Jesus Christ," "God," "damn," "ass," "bulls--t," "pissed," "balls," "boobs."

Consumerism

Brand and media names used frequently but mainly for scene setting. Some of the replicas choose product names for themselves, based on TV ads. Brands and media mentioned include Lexus, BMW, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet, Converse Chuck Taylors, Instagram, YouTube, Google, PowerPoint, Tumblr, Netflix, SnapChat, iTunes, iPhone, Hot Pockets, Charmin, Tide, Mobil gas, Bud Light, McDonald's, Hostess, Greyhound, Whole Foods, Tic Tacs, Panera, Coca-Cola, SoulCycle, WalMart, and Super 8 Motel.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Gemma makes several references to her mom's dependence on various pills and using wine to self-medicate. Gemma reminisces about once trying an e-cigarette. A few mentions of high schoolers partying and drinking on spring break. Man talks about past drug addiction and how it ruined his life.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lauren Oliver's Replica is a sci-fi thriller about two girls figuring out not only who they are but why they are. The novel has two stories, "Gemma" and "Lyra." Readers can read each separately or alternate chapters between the stories, which -- depending on which story they start with -- gives them four ways to read the book. Gemma's tale has her running away from home to figure out a mystery involving her parents and possibly herself. Lyra's story is about escaping Haven, a research facility that's been her only home for as long as she can remember. The girls encounter each other, and their stories merge as they try to learn more about a dangerous, top-secret project. The stories have romance angles, and while there is little kissing or physical contact, both girls experience a lot of sexual longing and talk about the attractiveness and sexiness of male characters. The girls and their friends encounter many dangerous situations. There's some violence, including a suicide bomber, the aftermath of that bombing (blood and body parts), kids kidnapped at gunpoint, and an attempted abduction. Suspicious deaths are discussed but not shown. Gemma and Lyra are reluctant heroines, who dig deep and realize they're smarter and more resilient than they've given themselves credit for. Interesting discussions around the ethics of cloning, human experimentation, and what makes a person "human" factor heavily into both stories.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 16 year old Written byMovieMom128 August 25, 2018

Not bad, but not a great piece

The concept of the two mirrored stories and the fact that the book can be flipped is the most interesting part of this book. The storyline is creative but the c... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous November 12, 2016

Read one at a time or both at once!

This book tells one story from two perspectives. I read both at once, and quickly discovered all the foreshadowing and secrets for either book. I recommend this... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old November 1, 2016

THIS BOOK IS AMAZING!!

This book is amazing! I couldn't put it down!! Gemma is insecure like a lot of kids but is brave. Gemma runs away so if your child will copy these action... Continue reading

What's the story?

REPLICA contains two separate stories, "Gemma" and "Lyra," each titled after its main character. Gemma is a teen who's had health problems since birth. Her parents are extremely overprotective and secretive, and one evening she overhears a troubling conversation that makes her question her dad's work in medical and pharmaceutical research and her own past. When she runs away to Florida to learn more about a top-secret research facility called Haven, she finds herself embroiled in conspiracy and danger. In Florida, Gemma meets an unusual girl named Lyra, who's escaped from Haven. Lyra's story details her life as a clone (or "replica") at the mysterious Haven and what happens when she and another patient get the opportunity to break out. The two girls' stories overlap, but each girl has a backstory and a personal journey to figure out. Gemma's trying to uncover some missing pieces of her past, and Lyra's trying to learn about what was done to her and others at Haven and whether she can survive in the real world. They are pursued by shadowy characters and face escalating danger as they get closer to the truth of what went on at Haven and how their lives factor into it.

Is it any good?

In these two action-packed, sci-fi stories, Gemma and Lyra find their lives in danger when they work to uncover the truth behind a mysterious research facility. Replica is cleverly devised: The book has two stories, "Gemma" and "Lyra," that can be read separately or as alternating chapters. The format is intriguing but problematic. If readers want to alternate between chapters, they have to flip the book over and keep track of the corresponding spot after every chapter. (This might be easier to manage in ebook format.) The storylines have enough duplication that it makes for a long, sometimes tedious read, no matter whether you alternate chapters or read each one after the other. Also, even though the narrators and some details are different between "Gemma" and "Lyra," once you finish one, you know the general outcome of the other, so it takes away much of the suspense when reading the second story.

On the positive side, both books grab the reader's attention right away, and author Lauren Oliver keeps the action humming along. Of the two books, "Gemma" is more interesting and engaging. Gemma's a relatable and sympathetic character, and her quest to learn more about Haven and her past is exciting. Lyra's story is interesting in the first few chapters, but because she's a replica, her narrative voice is too simple and direct and therefore dull. Both stories end in cliffhangers and leave far too much hanging. They seemed half-finished, almost as though chapters were missing from the book. Replica would have been better as one unified story that answered more of the questions it raises.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why cloning is such a popular theme in science fiction, such as Replica. What might be the consequences of cloning human beings? What kinds of rights should clones have?

  • Replica is set in the modern-day United States. Do you prefer sci-fi that takes place in completely unreal settings, or do you like books with alternate versions of real life?

  • Gemma's parents keeps her in the dark about a lot of things. How open do you think parents should be with their kids? How much information do you think teens can handle about their own health and their parents' work lives?

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