Sunday, April 06, 2014

Book Review: Starters

Starters by Lissa Price

You can't throw a bookmark in our house without finding a dystopian teen science fiction post-apocalyptic young adult book in our house, it seems an inexhaustible source of materials and Lori keeps bringing them home, but that's fine with me. Starters breaks the unwritten role and explains exactly what happened and that sure is a breath of fresh air. The United States found itself at war with Pacific Rim countries who eventually used biological warfare. The children and elderly had been vaccinated, but the adults were expected to be hearty enough to have survive any attack. Well, yeah, that didn't work. So we find ourselves in a world populated by children and teens (Starters) and the elderly (Enders). Oh, and possibly a few celebrities and politicians who got vaccinated.

If you were lucky enough to have grandparents still living who were able to claim you, your life didn't change too much (except losing your parents). If you weren't so lucky, the fate was much more dire - institutionalized, conscripted into manual labor or attempting to get by on your own, living in abandoned buildings, constantly in fear of the law-enforcement marshalls and other gangs of teenagers.

Our heroine, Cassie finds herself in a difficult situation - her brother is sick, they've got no money and things are bleak. And then get bleaker and bleaker. The opening was rough because it needed to push her to her breaking point, to the only possible way out of her mess - a company called Prime Destinations. With technology that's part Matrix and part Dollhouse, an Ender can rent time in a Starter's body. That is, an old person takes control of the young person's body. It's billed as a way for them to feel young again. There are all kinds of rules about what you're not supposed to do while you're inhabiting a rental body and a chip surgically implanted keeps track of you. While your body is being rented, it's as if you're asleep, as if no time has passed.

In a My Own Worst Enemy-twist, Cassie begins waking up in unfamiliar places and realizes that she's become able to reassert control of her body over the renter, but it means she has to quickly figure out where she is, what she's doing, who she's with and what she should say and do next.

It's an interesting concept and a good read, with only two complaints. One, it has an abrupt ending. If you go into it remembering that it's at least part of a duology (followed by Enders) that won't be so jarring. But two, it slogs a bit. I wonder if it would make more sense in the context of book 2, or if it could have benefited from some tightening. (Much like my blog posts.) She never has it too difficult -- I mean, you know it's going to end up OK, right? -- so the stakes never feel as high as they could be.

There was a lot about this that felt original. I know I compared it to several other works, but they only served to help ground some concepts - to either make them feel more plausible or at least more understandable. Looking forward to book 2.


Starters (Amazon.com)
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