“In a world ravaged by war and genocide, becoming someone else is now possible. Sixteen-year-old Callie discovers the Body Bank where teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. When her neurochip malfunctions, she wakes up in the mansion of her rich renter and finds she is going out with a senator’s grandson. It’s a fairy-tale new life, until she discovers her renter’s deadly plan.”
I want to start this review by saying that the book cover Gods really smiled on Lissa Price as Starters has to be one of the most startling covers I’ve seen this year. It’s quite simplistic but also incredibly effective. Marketed as “Matched meets The Hunger Games” (incidentally, two of my favourite books), Starters definitely whets my appetite! Starters is a plot driven novel and this is the strongest aspect of the book. Our main protagonist, Callie lives in a terrifying world where most adults are dead apart from the Enders (the old and the very old) and the Starters (the young). In order to survive, Starters can rent their bodies to Enders so they can ‘re-live their youth’ but what they do with your body is up to them, even if there are supposed to be rules.
I want to start with the positive. The plot was fantastic, the world building was really good and I enjoyed the futuristic slang like 'Zing' for text message. I wanted to love this book, I truly did but I felt like something was missing. It’s difficult to explain but the standard of YA fiction is so high these days, that even though a novel is good and you enjoy it, you can sense that it falls short in some way even if you can’t quite put your finger on why. I’ve been thinking hard about it and I think the answer lies with the characters. I felt detached from them, like I never really got to know them. I realise something like this is difficult in a setting where survival trumps everything else but I felt cheated. By the end of the book, I knew nothing about Blake, nothing about Michael, very little about Tyler and nothing really about Callie. Callie’s description is only ever referred to after her “enhancements” at the Body Bank and even then, I don’t know what colour her hair or her eyes are or how tall she is (please, correct me if I’m wrong). In that respect, the only thing I've got to go on is that she's really beautiful. I realise that authors sometimes deliberately withhold a description to help the reader picture themselves in that role but it didn’t work for me. Another very interesting observation is the fact that the cover of the book features a girl (presumable Callie) with Heterochromia Iridium i.e. eyes that are different colours. I presumed that this would be an important fact in the book (and it still might be) but it was never even referred to once which I find somewhat odd considering that was what stood out on the book cover.
One of the other things I didn’t love about the book was Callie’s relationship with Michael. I get that they never really had the chance to explore their relationship what with desperately trying to survive on a daily basis but they had a connection and there’s this big question mark hanging over them for the entire book and what Callie does at the end? Well you make up your own mind about that.
So basically, I’m kinda gutted that I didn’t outright LOVE the novel but I do like it and I will be carrying on with the story as there is a massive did-not-see-coming twist at the end that I just have to know more about! Thankfully, the sequel Enders is released in December of this year. Also, in case you didn’t realise, there is a short story available in digital format entitled “Portrait of a Starter” which is available now. It’s a prequel and told from Michael’s point of view and so maybe reading that will help me get to know him a little better! As always though, read the book and make up your own mind :)
Starters is published on 13th March, 2012 in the US and 29th March in the UK. To find out more about Lissa and her books, please click here to visit her website.