Expected publication: March 13th, 2012 (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
Source: ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Series or stand-alone: Starters (1)
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Find the author online: Twitter | Website
HER WORLD IS CHANGED FOREVER
Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.
He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .
In Starters, debut author Lissa Price catapults the reader head-first into the dangerous post-Spore Wars world, where for Callie Woodland, every day is a roll of the dice. Callie and her younger brother, Tyler are on their own other than a single friend, Michael - squatting in abandoned buildings, hoping not to be noticed by Enders (the older generation left untouched by the mysterious War.) When Tyler gets sicker, Callie makes a desperate decision, to turn herself over to Prime Destinations, and Lissa Price wastes no time fluffing the pages with unnecessary road blocks. What I loved about Starters was that Lissa brings the action right away, infusing the book with Callie's sense of urgency to save her brother, then throws in the twist of Callie waking up, still in her renter's body. This is where Starters really takes off, as we see the resourceful Callie trying to make sense of what has happened, along with dealing with black-outs as her renter, Helena, surges to the surface again, and trying to decipher Helena's puzzling messages.
There's never a dull moment in Starters, as Callie races to halt the plan Helena has developed. I loved all the suspense that Lissa Price created. Callie only knows bits and pieces, but it's enough to terrify her, considering Helena is in HER body, and if the plan goes south, it will be Callie who's to blame. Along with that fear is the added complication of Blake, the grandson of a powerful senator (who may or may not be connected to Helena's plan), and Callie's mixed emotions when it comes to the time she's spending with the charming Blake. And then there is the looming possibility that Prime Destinations doesn't just want renters - they're looking for teens who are willing to let Enders become owners of their bodies, effectively giving up their lives. Callie frantically searches to figure out who the real villain is - the Senator, the Old Man, or someone else entirely? I thought the Old Man (someone who we never TRULY see) was a very ambiguous and awesome Big Bad and I definitely hope we see more of him in the sequel!
I did have a few issues, regrettably with Starters. For instance, although there are several mentions of the Spore War, we only ever get the barest details. There's so much that isn't ever explained! I had so many questions about the War, the dangerous Spores, where they came from, who the countries were that were involved in the War, what led to it all, and so forth. In Starters, Prime Destinations has the ability to not just "make over" people - they make them flawless. And it's mentioned that humans have been living longer, or were before the War, so I'm also a little fuzzy on exactly what led to and why the age range is 20 - 60 post-War. And I was unhappy with some of the decisions the other characters made, as well as that the "romance" between Callie and Blake felt too fast. It's explained later in the book, and I was both mad and happy at how it all turned out (yes I'm being vague!) And I was really disappointed with how Helena's ARC turned out - I felt almost like that was just a convenient manner of dealing with her. And there was a weird point near the end where I felt like Lissa Price took the plot in a totally unnecessary direction.
Overall, despite some flaws, Starters has a Dollhouse-esque feel to it, with its notions of slipping effortlessly into someone else's body, and someone else's life. Heart-pounding at times, Starters is a glossy thrill-ride that skims over the top of deeply moral questions that I hope will be further addressed in Enders, the forthcoming sequel.
Have you read Starters? If so, what did you think? Do we agree, or disagree? And given that this is set in a hypothetical future, what do you think about the idea of renting out your body so that an Elder can re-experience being young?
Note: Starters is included in a box of ARCs I am giving away in my ongoing Blog-o-versary giveaway! Check it out here!