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To an outsider Lizzie, Ella and Betsy look like ordinary triplets. They each have their distinct tastes and personalities that set them apart. But they are more than triplets. They are clones. It’s no wonder that their mother wants to keep them sheltered, especially from government corporations that would treat them differently from human beings.
17-year-olds Lizzie, Ella, and Betsy Best grew up as identical triplets… until they discovered a shocking family secret. They’re actually closer than sisters, they’re clones. Hiding from a government agency that would expose them, the Best family appears to consist of a single mother with one daughter named Elizabeth. Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey take turns going to school, attending social engagements, and a group mindset has always been a de facto part of life…
Then Lizzie meets Sean Kelly, a guy who seems to see into her very soul. As their relationship develops, Lizzie realizes that she’s not a carbon copy of her sisters; she’s an individual with unique dreams and desires, and digging deeper into her background, Lizzie begins to dismantle the delicate balance of an unusual family that only science could have created.
Told from the first-person perspective, I appreciated that the author picked one of them and told the story from her point of view, instead of going with alternative view points in an attempt to encompass each one of them for a more “comprehensive” story. Yet besides getting to know Lizzie, readers also get to know Ella and Betsy who are as different as siblings can be, yet still bear resemblances to each other such that their relationships are believable.
While I picked up The Originals mostly for the cloning premise, I did get behind the other premise and that is the singular shared life of the girls. Outside of their home, they are collectively known as Elizabeth and everyone thinks that Elizabeth is one person. The logistical nightmare that such an arrangement is completely fascinated me. All this time that I was reading the book, I was just waiting for someone to slip up and for others to notice that something isn’t quite right. And what if they wanted to date? Would they take turns dating this one poor unsuspecting boy? Dealing with problems like these made me laugh and cringe. Of course Sean comes along, and Lizzie can’t help but take an interest in him. As if that isn’t enough of a problem, Ella takes a liking to David, their school’s bad boy. The conflicts that arise alone out of this already get the plot going. Adding on the fact that they are clones just makes it harder.
Patrick’s exploration of the humanity of clones and also the ethical implications that their mother faces for raising them in plain sight alongside normal human beings was done very cleverly. Instead of focussing on the impressions of other humans, the question lay more with what Lizzie, Ella and Betsy thought of themselves. They experienced emotions and pain like their friends, yet they had to ask themselves if they should and would be accepted if others knew or if they would be treated like freaks.
Most important though, I think, are the question of individuality and identity. Do they have the rights to that as clones? What does it mean to suppress three individualities to create one identity? Overall, a whole myriad of issues were tied together very nicely in this narrative. The relationships between the girls and their mother, and also among the girls were established well and I could imagine these scenarios taking place right before me. Removed from the messiness of their situations though, the relationships between Sean and Lizzie, and also between Ella and David could have been developed a bit more to justify some of they motivations. Since the idea of three girls pretending to be one girl, and the imminent dangers of being caught overshadowed most of the plot, the subplot of their romances did suffer a bit.