Initial reaction: It was decent, probably around my same reaction to the first book (which admittedly I read a while back ago.) The intrigue is strong but the execution felt a bit shaky through the novel.
Don't let my rating of this book fool you - I thought "Once We Were" was a very good book, and a worthy second book in the Hybrid Chronicles series (following up the first book "What's Left of Me.") Following Eva and Addie in this book shows them in quite a few harrowing situations - a struggle between claiming the right to exist as Hybrid souls and changing the status quo from the oppressive network that's quickly expanding its reach and aim. It's an apt theme as far as a dystopian novel is concerned. It also shows Eva and Addie not just as one entity, but struggling to come to terms with their own identities in the mix of some harrowing events.
So you might ask: "Rose, what's the problem with this book?" I'll admit it took me quite a bit of time to really get into the flow of this story. I thought it meandered a bit too much in the beginning and in parts of a sagging middle. Some parts I understood because the story took some much needed (and appreciated) time to flesh out Eva's character for her flaws and struggle to exist independently of her sister. The narrative did a decent job of showing how difficult it can be to have two souls sharing one body and fighting for competing interests - whether it may be in the vein of relationships or in the measure of what side they find themselves on in the midst of a difficult conflict. But for some reason, the narrative felt like it took a long time to stage that development, though it was progressive. The framework of the supporting characters and their role in the overarching story was fine, but I'm not sure why it felt like it took so long to get to the story's respective climax despite some notably interesting themes, scenes and intentions in the narrative.
I think one thing I like about Eva in comparison to other heroines in YA dystopia is - despite the fact she can make some infuriating decisions in a massive conflict - she's more self-aware and recognizes and learns from her mistakes. She recognizes her sister's wishes when they come into conflict and even learns of the greater repercussions of her decisions as the book marches to a rather explosive (literally and figuratively) conclusion. I really liked the intensity and emotion of the ending - I wish the pacing in the beginning and middle had the same kind of pull. Nonetheless, I find myself eager to pursue the conclusion of the series.
Overall score: 3/5 stars.