The Similars is the first book in a brand-new series from Rebecca Hanover, featuring a group of teenagers who just happen to be clones. It’s set in an upper-class boarding school, which made it an obvious choice for me to pick up, since boarding school books are my catnip.
Sixteen-year-old Emmaline is still reeling from her best friend Oliver’s apparent suicide. It’s hard for her to imagine her life without him in it, especially when she returns to Darkwood Academy for her junior year of high school. Memories of Oliver are everywhere, and it seems impossible her grief will ever lessen.
And then, the Similars descend on Darkwood. They are exact DNA replicas of six of Darkwood’s students, and the entire student body seems incapable of talking about anything else. Cloning is illegal, so how is it possible that six of them are attending one of the country’s most prestigious boarding schools? Who created them, and why?
Emmaline couldn’t care less about the Similars, until she comes face-to-face with Levi, a boy who looks exactly like Oliver. She does her best to steer clear of all of them, but as time passes, she finds herself strangely fixated on these six mysterious students. She’s desperate to discover what prompted Oliver to take his own life, and she can’t shake the suspicion that Levi’s existence might have something to do with it.
Before long, Emmaline’s attempts to uncover the truth place her directly in the path of a group of very powerful and dangerous people who will do whatever they deem necessary to keep their secrets hidden. Fortunately, Levi and the other Similars band together to help Emmaline bring the truth to light, and she begins to think she might have a chance of defeating her influential enemies. But when she learns a deeply hidden truth about her own birth, Emmaline realizes there’s more going on at Darkwood than she bargained for.
The Similars is a highly-charged story filled with danger, intrigue, and a slow-burn romance. It’s set in a world that’s not all that different from our own, making it easy to become completely immersed in the story. Ms. Hanover does a great job describing the subtle differences between her world and ours without resorting to info-dumping, and I freely admit to having to pause every so often to remind myself that I was reading about a fictitious time and place.
I didn’t care much for Emmaline’s character at the beginning of the story, but as I continued to read, I discovered her hidden depths. She does come off as a bit spoiled from time to time, but I was able to forgive her and move on. Her life hasn’t always been easy, so it wasn’t difficult for me to have patience with some of her more annoying behaviors. Plus, she undergoes a huge amount of growth, and I look forward to seeing how she’ll behave in book two.
The ending of the book was a little hard to take seriously. I can’t say too much about it without ruining the whole thing, so I’ll just warn you that the actions of the villain are kind of over the top. They are supposed to be very dangerous people, but they occasionally felt like the stereotypical bad guys who inhabit most bad movies.
The Similars definitely has its problems, but it’s still a strong start to what promises to be an excellent series. I adored the setting and the worldbuilding, and most of the characters are quite relatable. It does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I’m super excited for the second book to be released. I’m just hoping the author doesn’t make me wait too long.