Author: Lissa Price
Genre: YA dystopian fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Rebecca Lowman
First line: Enders gave me the creeps.
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 can’t remember where I first saw Starters mentioned. I know it was on a blog. Kelly, maybe? I just know that someone recommended it, and it was dystopian, which I love, so when I saw that my library had acquired it on audio, I jumped.
I initially thought this was a stand-alone novel, so I was a bit bummed that it is the first in a series. I like series, but I hate having to wait between books. But after getting absorbed in the world of Starters, I got over it. Because it is an amazingly well-imagined dystopian future, and, unfortunately, one that doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Isn’t that what makes the best dystopian fiction? They envision a future that isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility, and Starters does just that.
Price explores our society’s obsession with youth and takes it to the extreme. In a future ravaged by the Spore Wars, no one between the ages of 20 and 60 survived. Any young person – or “Starter” – who doesn’t have grandparents or great-grandparents to claim him or her, is forced to live on the street, in fear of being picked up and placed in an institution. Callie and Tyler have been living on the street since they lost their parents, but when they lose all of their meager possessions in a raid, Callie makes an extreme choice.
Prime Destinations is a company that specializes in giving “Enders” the chance to experience youth again. They “rent” the bodies of younger people, through a brain link. Callie agrees to three rentals in exchange for enough money to set her and Tyler up in a house. But when something goes wrong, Callie discovers that Prime Destinations is even more sinister than they appear – and she is caught in an old woman’s desire to take them down.
Callie is the kind of character I love to read about – she is, in some ways, a typical teenage girl, but she has been forced to grow up and take on responsibility far beyond her sixteen years. I was right there with her in her decisions – until the very end. No spoilers, but there was a choice made at the end that had me going, “Huh?”
Still, this is a book I would recommend to anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction. Just be warned that it is the first in a series, and while the cliff-hanger isn’t as extreme as in some series I’ve read, it still leaves a lot of things open.
Audio notes: Rebecca Lowman is the kind of narrator I like for first-person stories. She varies her voice enough on the characters to indicate who is speaking, but not so much that it doesn’t make sense, since the entire story is being told by one person. I enjoyed her work in Second Nature by Jacquelyn Mitchard, and in this one as well.