“In the world outside of the Haven Institute, Lyra and Caelum are finding it hard to be human—and Lyra, infected at Haven with a terrible disease, finds her symptoms are growing worse. When Caelum leaves without warning, Lyra follows him, seeking a pioneering organization in Philadelphia that might have a cure. But what they uncover there is a shocking connection to their past, even as their future seems in danger of collapsing.
Though Gemma just wants to go back to her normal life after Haven, she soon learns that her powerful father has other plans for the replicas—unless she and her boyfriend Pete can stop him. But they soon learn that they aren’t safe either. The Haven Institute wasn’t destroyed after all, and now Gemma is the one behind the walls.
Bestselling author Lauren Oliver brings the Replica duology to a shocking close in Ringer, but like both Gemma and Lyra, you won’t be able to leave the world of Haven behind after you’ve turned the last page.”
My Thoughts: Ringer follows the exact same format as the first book with two stories told separately and meant to be read separately, either as individual books or alternating chapters. While I struggled with the format when reading the first book, this time around I could appreciate what Ms. Oliver is doing. By playing with the format, keeping the two girls’ stories separate, we get the benefit of seeing the whole picture of what life is like for someone institutionalized for her entire life and now free and vice versa. We see them both wrestle with the ideas of humanity and ownership. We also get two stories in one, for while Lyra and Gemma are connected their stories only intertwine briefly.
Ringer does assume that you have read the first book and remember the details. There is almost no recap or character development to explain what happened. All of the key players in Haven and out are back, as are Lyra’s unique nicknames for equipment, people, and life at Haven. The little explanation you do get fills the gap between the end of the first novel and the beginning of this one, which occurs several months later. This is a good thing as the action picks up immediately but it does mean that this is not a stand-alone novel or one you can pick up without remembering what happened.
While the first book was a lot of action with little in the way of philosophical discussion, this time around we do get more discussion with less action. While both of the girls end up running again, they have plenty of time to think about cloning and what makes someone human. Lyra weighs ideas of ownership, how it is determined, or by whom. The two girls raise very interesting questions, especially after certain developments come to light, and I was glad to see Ms. Oliver incorporate these questions into the narrative, something I think was lacking in the first novel.
In Ringer, Ms. Oliver does an excellent job bringing both girls’ stories to a natural conclusion that fits their personalities; however, I still feel the stories are too rushed. Then again, I have a feeling I would feel that way had the stories been 100 pages longer. There is so much potential here for more in-depth discussions and greater development. Unfortunately, in telling two stories at the same time, certain things have to be cut in order to fit the prescribed length set by the publisher. At over 500 pages, I am sure Ms. Oliver kept as much as she could without sacrificing key plot developments.
Where Ringer shines is in showing how ignorant the general public is and how unwilling they are to believe something that appears so outrageous. There are key scenes in Lyra’s story which show how easy it would be for something similar to be occurring right now and we would have no idea. Money, medical experimentation in the guise of medical advancement, and the potential for military usage all make for powerful bedfellows with the ability to shroud any such experimentation in the most secret of vaults. Ms. Oliver never suggests that there is a human cloning facility in the United States, but she does hint that if one does exist, it is most likely hiding in plain sight. Scary thought given who is in charge of the government.
Much like my own ambivalent feelings about the first novel, Ringer is a decent story but not one that makes me want to shove it into everyone’s hands. It asks some excellent questions and pushes readers to draw their own conclusions about ethics and cloning, but the adult me wants more. I want more development and a slower plot to be able to really dive into the moral and ethical issues at play in the story. I want to explore Lyra’s and Gemma’s relationships with each other and with themselves now that they know their true identities. I want a story that does not rush to the conclusion but takes its time and foregoes some of the plot points that bring the girls together in convenient ways. I enjoyed what I read but cannot overlook the what-could-have-been had Ms. Oliver not been experimenting with story structure.