Monday, January 7, 2013
Genre: YA dystopia
Pages: 352 (hardcover)
Published: 2012 by Delacorte Books
Callie, once a middle-class teen before the Spore Wars which killed her parents, now squats with her brother Tyler and her semi-boyfriend friend Michael. Starters like Callie aren't allowed to have jobs or identities, and the Marshals diligently hunt down any teens who aren't lucky enough to have grandparent Ender guardians. Unlucky Starters are caught and taken to the dreaded institutions, where they must live until they come of age. Desperate for money and a second chance to save her brother after she loses everything in a raid by Marshals, Callie signs up for a three rental contract at the mysterious Prime Destinations, a corporation which lets Enders re-live the days of their youth in the bodies of real youth, who are "put to sleep" with sci-fi technology while the Ender takes over control of their body to party, do extreme sports, and enjoy life in the body of a beautiful teen for a few days-- or a few months. Little does Callie know, Prime Destinations is expanding: Enders are renting out bodies for longer periods and more and more teens are being targeted and used as 'merchandise' by the company.
During her third and last rental, Callie awakens suddenly in her own body weeks before schedule due to a malfunction, in a nightclub where moments before her renter was controlling her. Helena Winterhill, her renter, seems at first glance to be a wealthy elderly woman grieving over the death of her own granddaughter. But as Callie soon begins to discover, Helena has rented Callie's body with a purpose: this Ender has a gun in her sock drawer and a serious grudge against Prime Destinations. Torn between disbelief and worry for the brother and friends she has left behind, Callie nevertheless strikes up a relationship with the dreamy and wealthy real-life teen Blake, whose family may be more involved in Helena's plot than Callie knows. Caught up in a conspiracy of great and terrible proportions, Callie must decide whether to trust her renter and follow through with her plans to dismantle Prime Destinations.
I actually enjoyed Starters much more than Legends, another (more popular) 2012 YA dystopia I recently reviewed. The premise of old Enders renting out the bodies of desperate teenagers, or Starters, is pretty fantastic and very disturbing! Those creepy senior citizens with all their ideas about 'youth being wasted on the young', eh? *Shivers*. As a lot of other reviewers on Goodreads pointed out, the actual background of the Spore Wars which killed all adults between 20 and 60 (what they are, why they happened, who the heck they were against) is left really vague in this book. As its the first in a series, I'm hoping that will be clarified a little. But the world-building of the dystopian aftermath feels all too real and the story that Lissa Price tells is one I didn't want to stop reading for a second.
None of the characters are sketched out too well or are very complex, with the exception of Callie, but this is absolutely a plot-driven novel-- it didn't bother me in this case. The concept of Starters reminded me a little of the movie Surrogates, and I think this book would make a great sci-fi thriller movie. The stakes are very high and the villain (the enigmatic head of Prime Destinations, called the Old Man) is definitely bad and creepy enough for the silver screen. The feeling that you never knew whether somebody was really their own age, or in their own body, gave an excellent air of sci-fi-esque suspense and the twisting plot kept me guessing. I will absolutely be anticipating the next book in the Starters and Enders series and recommend it as a fantastic, edge-of-your-seat dystopia thriller. Starters also breaks away from the post-Hunger Games dystopia mold, and that is something I would definitely like to see more of in the genre as a dystopia reader.
This book qualifies for: The 2013 Dystopia Reading Challenge (hosted by Blog of Erised).
A very solid four unicorns