Dystopian fiction is everywhere these days, especially on the YA shelves. But when it’s done well, it deserves to be given a major shout-out to help it stand out from the crowd — and that’s certainly the case with Starters by Lissa Price:
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. . . .
The premise reminded my awfully of the short-lived Joss Whedeon TV series “Dollhouse,” but Starters — though it does have some similarities — is a far cry from anything else out there. The premise is harsh and frightening and the perfect hook to suck you into its pages. The writing is sharp and on point, keeping the pacing moving forward even in the story’s more quieter moments.
Price does an excellent job, likewise, of balancing Callie’s most heart-felt desires (to care for her brother; to carve out a place for her makeshift family) with more indulgent fantasies. Callie finds herself living in the lap of luxury, and there’s definite temptation. Wealth, security, and a blossoming romance all tempt her away from her true goals.
Callie’s internal struggle is only heightened as she learns more about the truly sinister plans of Prime Destinations. The more entangled she becomes, the more it becomes clear that she can’t trust anyone — not even the boy she’s falling in love with.
Built up to a dramatic climax and a stunning twist, Starters is an addictive and alluring tale about human nature’s darker side, and how far we’ll go to get what we want.
Look for it in stores on March 13th.