Friday, January 4, 2013

ReviewMeTwice- Starters by Lissa Price

This week's book is Starters, the debut novel by Lissa Price. (She is working on sequels!)

The background history for the dystopian society this story takes place in goes something like this: there was a big war, and a spore bomb (a biological weapon) was dropped on America. The young and the old had already received inoculation, because they were more vulnerable, but anyone who isn't a Starter (young) or Ender (old) died.

Callie - our protagonist - is a street kid, meaning that she had no living relatives once the adults were all wiped out. She is taking care of her little brother and really needs the means to improve their lives, which - of course - means she needs cash. She hears about a company that will hook a kid up to a machine that allows an Ender to "rent" the Starter's body and walk around as a young person again for a predetermined period of time. Obviously, things go wrong and important things are discovered and lots of exciting events happen.

There is a review quote on the cover that says that if you loved Hunger Games, you will love Starters, and I found this to be absolutely true. It has a lot of the same feel to it (poor girl looking out for her family is exploited by the rich, discovers big state secret and has to act - with the help of friends - to prevent disaster).

I was driven to finish the book, which is always a good sign. If you had walked in while I was reading it and asked me to come do something when I reached a good stopping point, I would not have done it until I finished the book. (That's my awkwardly roundabout way of saying it's a compelling novel.)

There were some really fascinating things that went on in Starters.  We follow Callie around as she tries to save her brother, but basically uncovers a terrible plot to hurt the teens in her world.

I always like when protagonists are independent   In Callie's world, if you're not able to take care of yourself, you're either going to be institutionalized by the government (basically worse than prison by about 1000), or you're going to be killed by others on the street.  There's no in-betweens in her world, which I liked because that theme kind of radiates throughout.  There's good and evil, not a lot of ambiguity.  There's old and young: all the the people from 20-80 have died due to germ warfare.  And there's rich and poor.  There's virtually no middle class any longer.  You're either stinking rich or you're living on the streets because no adult has claimed you.

Price creates this world not so far in the future.  Callie talks about Enders (the old people) growing up in the 1950s.  Enders in her world live to be about 200, though you get the sense that most of them are hovering in the 100-150 range.  Simple math tells us that they're living between the years 2050-2100.  Not so far in the future, really.  And Price is spectacular at showing that progression, especially in a world ravaged.  They're are things like holo-screen, projecting things in 3-d and plastic surgery is almost a given (they make Callie free of flaws before she donates her body to the elderly.)  It's very much like Scott Westerfeld's Uglies in that way.  The aged want to be perfectly young.  Everyone is done a specific way, no scars, no identifying features, really.

However, Price doesn't go to the extreme with technology.  Houses are still made out of the normal materials and are on the ground.  Cars don't fly and, other than being able to rent out someone's body, technology looks like it's progressed at a normal rate.  A world very much like ours, yet slightly different.

The only thing that really got to me was, that while I liked Callie, her actions didn't match up with the cautiousness that we know she should have.  She'd been living on the street, protecting her brother and surviving for a year.  Yet she didn't hesitate to trust not only Blake, but a number of Enders, people she swore she would never trust.

I liked the book a lot and Price is really good at suspense.  There were points I couldn't read fast enough because I wanted to know what happened so badly.  She even gave us a twist at the end to set us up for the next book, which I'm looking forward to when it comes out.

My Bottom Line 4 out of 5.

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