[1. Review copy provided by Random House Childrens Books]
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. . . .
Starters is a great YA. The story is complex (though not too complex) the characters believable and likeable, and the dystopia shown in the work is disturbing.
Callie is a squatter, an unclaimed teen living on the edge of society after a huge, destructive (mostly unexplained) war that ended up killing everyone between the ages of 20 and 60. The long-lived ‘Enders’ now run society, keeping themselves young-looking through surgery and medication, with younger people living as second-class citizens (a set-up perfectly designed to appeal to the target market, I suspect. I remember believing that of myself at 16). Claimed teens, with living grand or great grandparents are fine – but unclaimed teens are forced into the institutions. They can’t work, vote or live on their own. Those who don’t go into the institutions must live the best they can on the streets.
This is where Callie lives – but her brother is sick, and she needs money for him, so she decides to sign up as a donor body – a chance for Enders to take over the body of a teenager and be 100% truly young again – a process of dubious legality, not known about by any except the super wealthy.
Which is when it all goes wrong (of course) because it turns out something is wrong with the transfer. She wakes up back in her own body, living the renter’s life. And the renter seems to be planning to do something awful with Callie’s body.
You can see that it’s a nice, complex plot, right there. Most of the plot developments and twists were fairly obvious to me, and would have been as a teen as well, but I’m going to accept that a girl who read Lord of the Rings at 9 and attempted The Name of The Rose at 13 might not be the standard market for most YA books. I was a very, very odd teenager. Despite how obvious some things were, I found the ending a little confusing. This was possibly due to how short the chapters were, and how contrived some of the things that tied up the plot seemed – there was an awful lot of coincidence being used towards the end there, and I am side-eyeing it SO HARD, because this book deserved better than that.
Anyway. Callie is a great character, intelligent but not unnaturally so, and she acts rather than just reacts. She isn’t a passive victim, she’s a do-er, even when she’s frightened or unsure. This is a nice alternative to many YA heroines.
There are problems, of course. The prose is fairly basic, which isn’t a problem considering the target market, but it makes the occasional burst of poetic description seem out of place and over the top. The moments that are meant to be emotional or shocking can often come across as contrived or sentimental instead. And it seems to be part of a series. I am so tired of YA series. I know they get more attention in the post-Potter bookworld, but I’d really like to start seeing some more standalones.
However, overall a pretty good book. Buy it for your daughters AND sons, as it has enough action to keep boys happy. Read it yourself, too, just to make sure it’s suitable of course.
[Rating: 4 out of 5]