Title: Echo Boy
Author: Matt Haig
Publisher: Random House Children'sUK
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Buy it: Here
Audrey is in danger. The household Echo robot has just killed her parents and she has managed to escape with her life - just. But where does she go? Is there anyone left she can turn to in a world where friends are avatars and neighbours are strangers? One thing is for sure, Audrey doesn't want to be anywhere near another Echo, but that is easier said than done. She is taken in by her estranged uncle, head of Castle Industries, the primary manufacturer of Echo prototypes.
Having just recently read The Humans, I seem to be developing quite a love for Matt Haig's stories of philosophical introspection... and once again with Echo Boy, Matt Haig has asked one of life's greatest questions: "What does it mean to be human?" And has presented the reader with a platform on which to form our answer.
Echo Boy is an excellent YA sci-fi thriller that presents a future world so rooted in today's society, it feels like a premonition. I really feel that the world-building itself is one of the greatest points of this novel as it links so closely to the story's messages. Are we pushing humanity to a state of indifferent robotic-ness, while technology is surpassing us in humanity? The questions are posed most fully through the character of Daniel, an Echo prototype with something resembling a soul. The way he is treated by humans and other Echoes alike prove to him that he belongs on neither side, and the reader watches as Daniel has to adapt to one side or the other just to survive.
The story is told in "mind logs" between Audrey and Daniel. Audrey is instantly likeable; a daughter of an "echophobe" who herself refuses to be brainwashed by propaganda from either side of the Echo debate. I found her to be a believable and intelligent 15-year-old narrator, and I rooted for her the whole way through. Daniel, on the other hand, took a while for me to like as much - though designed as a 16 year old boy, his mind logs often reflected someone of a younger mindset due to his discovery of new experiences and emotions, and it took a bit of getting used to.
There is an element of romance in the novel that I found sweet and neatly woven into the plot. As things are left at the end of Echo Boy, its leaves the relationship between the two characters involved open to interpretation, and I found this extremely fitting, if a little frustrating - it's not often I'm dying to know if two people get together or not!
Matt Haig has created one of his best stories yet. Each novel gets better and better and I cannot wait for the next one, as I know it will be literary joy. Echo Boy asks the right questions, presents the right evidence and draws an open conclusion that leaves the reader wondering. I will be recommending it to a lot of people - Anyone else want a sequel?!