There is a lot of hype surrounding Lissa Price’s debut novel, Starters, and when I start a book like this I always wonder if it is justified. I have to say on reading Starters that I can see why some of the hype has been generated.
Starters is an engaging, sci-fi debut which I really enjoyed reading. It is set in a world where after a war where only the young and elderly lived through vaccinations, and there is a real divide between claimed and unclaimed youths. Orphaned Callie is one of these unclaimed ‘starters’ and applies for a job at Prime Destinations where she can get enough money to buy a home and provide stability for her family and friends. The only catch? Well, the job is to rent out her body three times.
Without wanting to spoil the novel for you, obviously one of these goes wrong and offers a startling insight into how her body can be misused as she regains consciousness of her body while it is still being rented out. What ensues is part thriller, part sci-fi, part dystopia, part the Prince and the Pauper, and a lot of drama. I think at times here the pacing was a little slow though and for the plot itself could have been more action-filled and dramatic, that said this was a minor concern.
I found the concept of renting out your body and being totally unaware really well handled and compelling. It is perhaps the reason I feel that this book deserves recommending. The concept of waking up and not knowing how you got the scratches on your body, or the fact it is other renters are abusing your bodies despite it being against the rules is a interesting allusion to teenagers and the rights they have. Not only this, but it alludes to the number of teenagers in poverty who can be so easily exploited when there is no-one to defend them in an effective and poignant way. This may just be me being an English student and reading into things, but I think this showed how out of control of our lives and power we can be as teenagers and so to have a character rising from this and being strong is fitting for YA.
The romance aspect of the novel and the twist with this was really well done. While it started feel a little familiar, the twist Price throws in changes everything at the end.
I think for its discussions on power, and easy allusions to rights as a teenager, this novel could definitely be a stand-out release of 2012. I only wish I liked the cover more as I really am not fond of its current incarnation, but that’s just me! I received this as a free egalley from NetGalley.com and Random House Children’s Books.