Thursday, March 8, 2012
Just Finished Reading ... Starters
by Lissa Price
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
March 13, 2012
Source: Netgalley, which provided me with an e-ARC on behalf of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Mature content: mild clubbing scenes, murder plot, some not-too-graphic violence
My summary: After all American citizens between the ages of 20 and 60 are wiped out by an act of biological warfare, the population is split into two demographic groups: Starters, or orphans under age twenty, and Enders, "greedy old fogies" over the age of sixty who seem to have everything: money, jobs, and places to live. Though Enders can live for hundreds of years, most pine for their lost youth. But through a business called Prime Destinations, an Ender can rent the body of a young Starter for a few days or a month.
Callie is a Starter orphan with a sick younger brother. "Unclaimed minors" like Callie and Tyler have to evade the authorities to avoid being institutionalized, and Tyler's illness isn't helped by the fact that the siblings are forced to squat in abandoned buildings. Callie decides that renting her body to an Ender seems like a easy way to make some much-needed cash so that she can get Tyler a safer place to live. But something goes terribly wrong. Callie finds herself controlled by an Ender who's determined to use her body to commit a murder.
My thoughts: This book has an amazingly cool premise. The whole Ender/Starter thing is like a cross between the movie Cocoon and the TV show Dollhouse. The idea of the young being pitted against the elderly is both fascinating and politically relevant, given the aging American Baby Boomer population and current debates over the financial viability of Social Security and universal health care. The premise of old people renting young bodies also speaks to our society's obsession with youth and physical perfection. And the idea of renting a body to commit a murder? Sign me up!!!
As the story opens, we meet Callie's little brother Tyler and her pals-but-could-be-more friend Michael. For me, Michael and Tyler were by far the most vivid and interesting characters in the book. Unfortunately, as soon as Callie commits to renting her body out, she isn't allowed to contact either of them. A chip is implanted in her head and she's put into a twilight sleep so that an Ender can rent her body like a Ford Focus. Then something goes terribly wrong. Before the rental is supposed to be over, Callie wakes up in her own body with no memory of what happened. Soon she begins to suspect that the Ender who still has access to her body is up to no good.
At this point in the book, I was excited. Callie is a trained marksman with access to her rich renter's high-end cars, designer wardrobe and unlimited cash. So I expected Callie to put the pedal to the metal and zoom this book off into heart-pounding La Femme Nikita or Sydney Bristow territory. No dice. Callie spends the next third of the book going to clubs and restaurants with other Starters and/or Enders in the bodies of Starters. She meets a guy named Blake and feels a connection to him. I'll have to take her word for that, because the two of them have zero chemistry. (The reason for this is explained toward the end of the book.)
Exactly 71% of the way through the book (thank you for that information, Kindle!) the pace picks up again. Helena, the Ender who's renting Callie's body, enters the picture, providing some much needed conflict. Michael and Tyler reappear to up the stakes. A Dastardly Plot is revealed. There are some parallels to the Hunger Games (a Prim character, a Cinna character, a Rue character, an almost-Reaping) that may delight some readers and annoy others. The last quarter of the book comes through with a satisfying mix of action, suspense, and a face-off against a creepy villain. Yes!
Though I thought I'd fall head over heels for Starters, I decided we're better off as friends. I was frustrated that the book didn't quite live up to its amazing potential. But I definitely recommend that you give it a try -- maybe you'll find true love. If you've read it, or plan to, be sure to give me your thoughts.
This post got long, so look for Hunger Games Trivia in a separate post today!