Wednesday, March 14, 2012

ARC Starters by Lissa Price (4/5 stars)

Title: Starters
Author: Lissa Price
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers 
Date Published: 13 March 2012
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: Net Galley approved by Random House Children's Books
Rating: 4/5 stars

First of all many thanks to the publisher Random House and Net Galley for this ARC. I wish I could've read Starters before it was launched but there were a few things that came up in my life that needed my time. That said, I saw this unforgettable cover from Amazon, as a title to be released this March, and the blurb sounds like something I would enjoy reading and I wanted to read the book since. I found out that the publisher is having a giveaway from Lissa Price's site but I missed it, and that's when I requested a copy from Net Galley. Congratulations Lissa Price for this strong debut piece.

In the future, after the Spore wars ended the life of those between the ages of 20 and 60 (called Middles), who weren't given a vaccine shot (some Middles used their influence and power to get vaccinated and we'll get to meet some of them in the second book entitled Enders), Starters, (kids and teens) who do not have working or rich relatives to claim them, are fighting to survive in the streets living in terror of Marshals who would capture them and take them to inhumane institutions and wary of renegade Starters who are desperate enough to kill for food. Callie at sixteen with her seven year old sick brother Tyler and their neighbor/friend Michael, have been running for a year. All she wants is a place to call home, food and medicine for Tyler, and she can have all of these for a whole year with the money Prime Destinations is offering - for a price. That price is her young body for three engagements. Fans of the television series Dollhouse (starring Elizah Dushku), will also enjoy Starters which poses the same moral quandaries and more. In Starters, donors' bodies cannot be used for illegal purposes such as killing or for sex, unlike in Dollhouse, but does that make the act of renting more morally acceptable?

In Starters, Middles weren't able to get vaccinated because those who were weaker were vaccinated first. My initial thought on the matter is: the more logical action for the State to take is to give the vaccine to those who would be assets in ensuring the continuity of the existence of the community, exactly those who would be deemed the fittest, the best and strongest in their field, and they can't be too old either to be productive. However, I read Price's statements in an article that this idea came to her because of her personal experience in Costco, trying to get a flu shot. Pharmaceutical companies didn't make enough vaccine that year and the government had to set up a system where the young, old and the infirm would be vaccinated first and she didn't get her shot. I think it's a possibility if doctors/scientists came to an incorrect conclusion that Middles would be able to survive the spores because they are still strong. I wanted to include the author's statement here for those who are second guessing the structure of Callie's after the Spores war world.

Starters is plot driven, filled with non-stop suspense in every page. My heart was constantly beating fast because there is that gnawing feeling that Tyler could be taken any moment and things could go very wrong. Set at a fast pace that made me not let go of the book until I finish it in one reading with unpredictable twists at every turn and an ending that will make you want December to come for the next installment!

I didn't give it five stars because I thought I needed more from Starter's characterization. Callie's character is desperate, her every instinct screams for her to protect her younger sibling, but that doesn't come out as strong as it should in the story for me after she woke up in her renter's life. None of Starter's secondary characters were memorable for me, I would love to know more about them, particularly Michael and Blake, the two potential love interests of Callie. Michael stars in his own short story, Portrait of a Starter, and I think Starters would have been a five star book had it been strong enough to stand on its own without the need for short stories to supplement the characterization.

I thought that Callie's hair and eye color would be revealed after her makeover or when she was in the club after she described Madison but Price deliberately didn't reveal these details, and I thought it was very clever, so that the readers would imagine Callie as themselves.

Some last thoughts..

I loved all the Cinderella allusions. It makes me think that there is hope for Callie to find true love and change her life, after all, Cinderella found her prince and changed her life. I also think Callie's mother makes a good point, when she asked her husband, would we leave them without anyone to protect them? And I really liked the flashbacks, very fluid, and perfectly timed.