The release date for Starters is April 5th 2012 – that’s next Thursday, folks. If you haven’t pre-ordered this book already, you absolutely, definitely should. I was lucky enough to be sent a copy by Doubleday publishers and devoured it within a day. It’s without a doubt one of the best novels I’ve read all year, and probably the best YA novel.
Summary: 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. . .
I didn’t just love this book, I LOVED THIS BOOK. I refused to put it down to the extent where I was sneakily reading it in bed at 3am, using my Thomas the Tank Engine booklight (cause I’m a grown-up y’all). I know I haven’t exactly been quiet about my feelings of disillusionment with YA lately, but Starters has got me right back on track.
The basic concept is fairly well explained above, but just in case you’re allergic to italics- all the adults have been killed before the book begins, leaving just children and the elderly because they received a particular vaccine first. While the older generation can claim their grandchildren and provide a home for them, those unclaimed are left to fend for themselves on the streets. One option is to allow Prime Destinations, an advanced private company, to temporarily put your mind on hold while an Ender inhabits it to do all the things they can’t do with their old bodies, like partying or rock-climbing. One day, after Callie has consented to this process, she suddenly regains consciousness in her own body and she discovers exactly what her renter has been planning for her body.
I actually really liked the story concept – it’s not something I’ve heard anything even vaguely similar to before. I can’t help but think that in the real world something would have been done to help the unclaimed children, they wouldn’t have just been left to fend for themselves, but the narrative does at least attempt to explain that. Perhaps the prequel, Portrait of a Starter, helps it a little more.
It’s a very fast-moving plot, but it doesn’t sacrifice the world-building either. For me, dystopian fiction needs to adequately explain why society ended up how it did, along with providing little details about how they love. I’d say there’s a perfect mix of action and explanation in Starters and I love it.
I actually liked Callie – she doesn’t make sudden, stupid decisions, nor does she automatically believe whatever she’s told to. She doesn’t spend a ridiculous amount of time pining over a boy or irrationally whine about everything. In short, she’s a perfect heroine who tries to do the right thing by everyone she can.
The other characters are just as fun too. I particularly liked Helena and the other renters that Callie meets. Lissa Price has done a wonderful job of describing the elderly trying to be young. It just seems realistic somehow – kind of awkward and not quite in sync.
And now for the main event! The writing. Nothing ruins a book for me worse than ‘clunky’ writing – I don’t care how excellent the concept is, if it’s not written well, I’m just not going to like it. Simple. Fortunately, Starters isn’t just written acceptably well, it’s actually good. The dialogue is natural, the description is lovely and the action is explained. It still has a casual, easy tone, but I haven’t read a YA novel this year that has such great prose.
There’s a twist near the end that I absolutely did not see coming and I loved the inventiveness of it. It put a whole new spin on the rest of the book. That said, there’s also a plot development on the very last page that I saw coming from about half-way through and annoyed me a little.
Starters is just everything the first novel in a series should be. It’s a unique concept, written very well with a few twists to keep you grasping for more. It’s a self-contained story but with a clear direction for the second book. Speaking of, we don’t actually have that long to wait. Ender, the second book, is out in December 2012 and if it’s even half as impressive as this book, it should be great 🙂