“She placed one foot in the car, but before she could get inside, a single white spore floated down between us.
It landed on her forearm. She started at it. We both did.
She died a week later.”
Starters by Lissa Price depicts a world where the young no longer have the protection and guidance of their elders and instead find themselves caste to the bottom of the social ladder, unless their youth can benefit the elders who now hold all the cards. Price has certainly taken some steadfast themes of teen- disease, poverty, authority- and written something with a fresh face and interesting plot twists.
Callie is a Starter, a teenager trying to survive in a world where only the very young and the very elderly survive with all people between thirty and sixty killed by genocidal spores, as only the very young and very old received the vaccinations against it. Unfortunately it is the elderly who have claimed all the luxuries of life, leaving those like Callie and her brother Tyler, who suffers from a lung disease, to struggle on the streets and scrounge for even the most simple of necessities. Callie soon discovers the Body Bank, a place where the elderly can “borrow” the bodies of young teens to enjoy their youth and signs a contract to hand her body over to be rented when she sees the financial gains and how it could change the life of her brother for the better. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse when the Elder renting her body decides to use it for something that clearly goes against the contract and will dramatically change their lives, and the lives of countless others.
When I first heard about Price’s book I was excited. There were multiple aspects of it that intrigued me, particularly the idea that the middle age group was completely gone, which would leave many teenagers without any parents and immediate family members, though you learn at certain points that there is also a select group of privileged teens who live the high life with their grandparents. But the fact remains that a large population of teens are left alone and without the protection of adults, living in the streets because the Elders suppress them, keeping them jobless and constantly on the run. And while the idea of older people going to such extremes to relive their youth might seem outlandish it’s a creative goldmine for a writer, one which Price explored and used with great inventiveness.
Price also did a great job of highlighting the differences in life styles between the Elders and the Starters. She points out how materialistic society can become, even when a large portion of it is suffering and living without the most basic of their human needs being met. Most of the time when the Elders do rent a teen body, they drive fast cars, go to outrageous clubs and use their young bodies to play sports and do extreme activities (like bungee jumping) that their own aging bodies can no longer handle. She also includes some great plot twists, especially the shocker that comes right at the conclusion of the book. Like many teens books there is an aspect of revolution in this story as well, so it is certainly a fast-paced book.
However, when I finished reading Starters I felt like I didn’t really connect with the characters. There was no doubt that Callie was a strong-headed and interesting character, but many of the other characters are only present for such short encounters that you never become emotionally involved in their well being. I found the story slightly disjointed as well, due to some of the gaps in Callie’s memory and the pivotal plot developments that occur during those times which she then has to rediscover later. The last quarter of the book also seemed somewhat rushed to me, with so much happening at once that I was still struggling to digest what was happening when something else vital to the plot took place almost immediately afterwards.
That said, I still enjoyed Starters and believe Price has pulled some extremely interesting themes together and infused them with some great twist and turns. No doubt the little bumps will be smoothed out in the second book of the series Enders which will be released in the new year. Give this book a read if you enjoy the dystopian genre, but are looking for something with a bit of a unique twist!
Devon – athousandbooklife