Title: Starters (Starters #1)
Author: Lissa Price
Year Published: 2012
My Starters Pre-Reading
Synopsis: 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....
Review: Going into this book, I was really looking forward to something like Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. I really liked the show, and Starters sounded like a very close counterpart to it. And you know what? It was pretty close. People selling their bodies so that they can be used as vessels for other personae/people. A malfunctioning "doll." A heroine who tries to save the day while trying to avoid an evil organization. But luckily, this book was different enough from the show that it seemed like a whole new story!
In Callie's world, there are only young children & teenagers, and the elderly. Everyone else was killed during the Spore wars. I can't imagine living in a place where kids are forced to fend for themselves but aren't allowed to work. Or to do much more than rot away in prisons simply because they are "unclaimed." It sounds like such an awful world, and I was really impressed with how well it was constructed. We aren't flooded with details, and we're shown more than we're told. I felt like the book started a little slow pacing-wise, but the world building is done very well, and I was simultaneously pleasantly surprised and terrified that this future doesn't sound like something that's too far off.
It seems like strong female characters are a common trope in YA dystopian novels, but Callie has so many other attributes that make her stand out from your typical YA heroine. She tries to be strong, but she's scared - for herself, for her brother, for her friends, for her fellow teens. She wants to save the world, but she doesn't know how. She doesn't know who to trust, but she sometimes puts her trust in the wrong person/people. Callie is such a complex character, and I totally felt for her every time something went wrong and celebrated with her when her plans went as expected.
I also thought that the minor characters were very well developed. All of them had their own personalities and had more than one side to them. They were dynamic and ever changing. I thought the relationship with Blake started a little quickly, but then progressed at a more reasonable rate. I enjoyed reading about the time they spent together, although I almost wish Callie was a little more conflicted over which boy to pick. I want to know more about Michael and about their history together. I'm hoping for more of that in Enders!
If you enjoyed books like Divergent or The Hunger Games, I think this would be a good read for you. I also think fans of Dollhouse would enjoy this book, although it is different and stands on its own. I can't wait to read Enders next and see how Callie's story plays out! 4/5.