Starters by Lissa Price
Publisher: Random House/March 13th, 2012
Kind thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing a review copy
In the future, teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. One girl discovers her renter plans to do more than party—her body will commit murder, if her mind can’t stop it. Sixteen-year-old Callie lost her parents when the genocide spore wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first—the very young and very old. With no grandparents to claim Callie and her little brother, they go on the run, living as squatters, and fighting off unclaimed renegades who would kill for a cookie. Hope comes via Prime Destinations, run by a mysterious figure known only as The Old Man. He hires teens to rent their bodies to seniors, known as enders, who get to be young again. Callie’s neurochip malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her rich renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, even dating Blake, the grandson of a senator. It’s a fairy-tale new life . . . until she uncovers the Body Bank’s horrible plan.
This book has gotten quite a lot of hype, so I was anxious to see what all the fuss was about. Like I’ve said before, I’m not a huge YA reader, but my exception to that rule is usually dystopian titles, and this one was certainly intriguing. 16 year old Callie is our narrator, and she’s been the caregiver to her younger brother since her parents were killed in an attack that decimated everyone but the very young, and very old. “Living” for Callie and Tyler is squatting in abandoned buildings and hiding from the law, which won’t hesitate to round up unclaimed teens and put them in government run institutions. It’s a grim world, unless you’re claimed or have money, and Callie finds herself doing something she thought she’d never do, volunteering her body for use by Enders (the very old), that want to relive their youth. It’s not quite legal, but they promise big money and for Callie, that means security for herself, and most importantly, her younger brother. So she heads to Prime Destinations, where a chip is installed in her brain and she’s prepped to be taken over by an Ender. Things don’t go quite right, though. Callie actually wakes regains consciousness, and her Ender, Helena, seems to be trying to communicate to her. See, Callie’s Ender has a plan, and it could endanger Callie’s life, yet Prime Destinations may have something much worse in store…
I’ll admit, Callie had me hooked pretty much right off. Told in her voice, Starters doesn’t have much downtime and it’s a constant guessing game as to who Callie can trust. I appreciated that the author let Callie enjoy some of the wealth that came from being a donor body, since, after all, she is a teenager, and one that had been living on her own, taking care of a small child for a while. Any human in her place would have done the same thing, especially someone that young. Always though, is Cassie’s determination to take care of her brother and provide him with a chance at a stable future. The author created a terrifying future world, where conspicuous consumption is on obvious display, and there are people that think nothing of using a teenager’s body to live out the childhood they so desperately miss. Like I said, the action really doesn’t let up, and Callie’s situation is at turns desperate and mind bending, and there’s even a bit of romance thrown in. I also really enjoyed the world building in this one, very futuristic, yet retro at the same time. I think the only thing I had issue with is how quickly things came together at the end, although there are plenty of dangling threads to provide more than enough material for the next book, which I’ll certainly look forward to. If you love dystopian/futuristic novels with strong female protagonists, and plenty of action, you’re sure to enjoy Starters!