Starters by Lissa Price, YA Dystopia

Synopsis: Only the young and the old, as the most vulnerable populations, received the vaccine against the genocide spores before it was too late. Everyone else died. This lead to a shift of power in the direction of the elderly, and left the minors with no living older relatives with no one to look out for their interests. Callie is one such minor, incapable of obtaining legal work or residency.

To make ends meet and to look after her younger brother, she signs up as a donor in a body rental program. This underground organization allows the wealthy elderly to take over a younger body and relive their youth. For Callie, it’s like going to sleep. She’ll be out for a month, wake up in her own body, get paid, then bail. But then she starts waking up during the times when someone is supposed to be renting her body. And finds that the woman using her is interested in bigger things than just reliving her youth.

Borrowed from

So it’s kind of like the opposite to Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.

Series: First book, has a sequel.

POV: First person, single viewpoint

Romance: Ahahahaha. It’s secondary to the plot, but saying anything more than that would be a spoiler.

Preview: Chapter one.

I must have missed the memo that Lissa Price isn’t interested in following the standard YA playbook–mostly because there was a point towards the end where I pretty much stared at my kindle in shock for a few minutes, and then just started laughing. I usually don’t like talking about plot twists, because I prefer to think of the experience of the entire book, instead of just one moment. But this had one plot twist that literally had me checking the genre again, to make sure this really was YA.

The thing that stood out most to me about this book was what it was like for Callie, not being entirely in control of her own body. Not knowing where she was going to wake up. Not knowing what trouble her body would get into while she was out. Our protagonist is in a tough, stressful position, where she’s unsure of who to trust and unwilling to endanger the few people she does trust.

While this was a interesting situation for the protagonist to be in, it worked so well because Callie kept trying to do something about it. She generally took sensible steps to try and head off any disasters that she foresaw. It was nice that she used her head as best as she could, and tried to get through the situation without calling undue attention to herself. And it was nice how much she did manage to handle on her own.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t always right about who she could and couldn’t trust (which means it’s a really good thing I wasn’t in her position). I mean, I was so sure about some of these people. Callie tended erred on the side of skepticism, though she didn’t always have a choice–she had to choose to trust someone eventually.

I also loved that her priority, first and foremost, was always the last remaining family she had left. And after that, she was willing to do the right thing, even if it was risky. It’s also refreshing that there isn’t anything innately special about Callie–she just got unlucky.

The most interesting characters aside from Callie tended to be the elderly ones Callie met while waking up in the life her renter was living in her body. Helena, the woman renting Callie’s body, with sympathetic motives but somewhat sketchy goals. Lauren, Helena’s concerned friend who wonders if maybe she’s going too far. Madison, the clueless renter who doesn’t even consider the person who’s body she’s wearing.

The strengths of the novel definitely rest with the mystery of finding out just what is going on in the first half of the novel, and in the action and troubleshooting Callie undertakes once she finds out what’s happening in the second half.

Of course, my sadistic side really wants to see this made into a movie, so I can witness the uproar at the end as everyone’s expectations are trampled into the dirt. That would be amazing.

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