Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Starters

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Starters

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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!

17 comments:

  1. You know, I never actually wanted to read this book before getting an ARC. I didn't like the idea of Starters, and I think that reflects in my review a lot. But since I didn't know a whole lot/already not liking it before going in, I don't think I was really disappointed by what was inside. I did like it, it just was weird to me. I don't know. My review explains it all (posting next week.)

    I did think it was weird with Blake, the whole "chemistry" thing. Yes, there's reason at the end, but holy crap, that doesn't explain the lack of chemistry in the beginning when we don't KNOW anything. Made me mad.

    Ashelynn @ Gypsy Book Reviews.

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    1. Look forward to your review!
      Yes, it killed me that Michael was absent for most of the book and instead she hung around with Blake.

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  2. I have been wanting to read this book. I think I will still give it a try!

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    1. You definitely should! Then come back and tell me what you thought!

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  3. It reminds me of the movie Gamer with Gerald Butler. I'm disappointed that calla doesn't take any action against her situation. The storyline is definitely unique and interesting but if it is as slow as you say it is, I probably won't read this book. Great honest review!

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    1. I have never heard of that movie! Going to check that out.

      I'm giving away a copy of Starters here next week so if you win, you can decide for yourself. I liked it -- I guess I was just expecting something different.

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  4. The premise of this book really creeps me out, people renting bodies to play around in a' la possession, ewww. I don't think I would be able to get past that factor honestly, but it is a cool concept (very scifi-ish which is always a plus.) It is disappointing getting into a book early on and it just not making much headway through the middle, only to have a whole crap load of action at the end. Think I'll wait and see if my library gets it:) Loved this review, and you got to use the phrase "Dastardly Plot", AWESOME:)

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    1. Funny -- a lot of people have said they found the premise creepy and that didn't even occur to me.

      And there are rules as to what they are allowed to do with the body.

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  5. My first thought when I heard of this book was DOLLHOUSE!!!! I absolutely adored that TV show, so I'm excited to find something similar to it in written word.

    I also was approved for this one on NetGalley, so I am reading it now. I had another one started, The Gilly Salt Sisters, and it was sooo slow and painfully boring at moments that when I tried to get back into it today I found myself logging in to NetGalley and declining to write the review. I wrote why in the space meant for the review.

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    1. Look forward to your review! The reaction on Goodreads is very divided.

      I did enjoy it -- just wished the pacing had been more even.

      I never had a chance to watch Dollhouse before it got canceled :(

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  6. I think I would read this book just for the cover alone. I am drawn to it.

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    1. The cover is pretty cool -- it's based on a drawing in the book that Michael does of Callie. He's an artist. And not in the book enough. Okay, I said that already :)

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  7. I think I'm still going to check this one out - that premise is so cool. But thanks to your review I won't go into it with my hopes too high. Great review!

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    1. Isn't it funny how your expectations can affect your opinion??? That's why I try not to read too much about a book before I have a chance to see for myself.

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  8. I also just finished this book and thought it was amazing! There were some parts I thought seemed a little like the hunger games but the author seemed to add her own twist to them so it was unique! Thanks for the review!

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  9. I read and reviewed this book a little while ago. I absolutely loved it!! I'm a fan of dystopianand sci fi, so this was great for me. I liked Callie a lot because she is just thinking about her brothers well being, and trying to help him.

    I didn't really understand the Blake and Callie thing until the end either. Do people really act like that right after meeting?

    Great review! (I love how you seperate your summary from your thoughts)

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