Starters by Lissa Price

Title:  Starters
Author:  Lissa Price
Publication Date:  March 2012, Delacourte Press

Summary from GoodReads:

"Her world has changed forever.

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. . ."

My review:
            I first heard about Starters in a review by The Week magazine.  That particular review claimed that it was “a worth successor to Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games”, so I got pretty excited to read this book.  I devoured the 335-page book in one day.
            What pulled me into the book initially was the concept.  We have seen similar themes before… post-apocalyptic dystopia, using other people’s bodies, etc.  However, I think the author put a unique spin on it.  Having the main character, Callie, rent her body to the senior citizens to try to take care of her brother and pseudo-boyfriend is just plain interesting.  It helps paint the picture of what this world looks like after the Spore Wars – rich old people without a care and poor desperate youths without any adult guidance trying to survive.  I love the disdain that the Enders have for the Starters.  It only gets better as Callie interacts with other Enders who rent the beautiful surgically-perfected bodies.
            As the book progresses, it takes on deeper meaning. Callie unearths some serious problems with the rental program, as well as some nefarious plots hatched by the super-elderly.  I will not spoil it for you because her discovery of their plans is central to the plot and your enjoyment of the book!  Price does not spend much time on why the Spore Wars happened or how technology developed to such a point where extreme age is possible, but that seems to be more anecdotal to the story, even if it does make the whole concept more realistic.                       
            Perhaps my favorite part about this book is that it makes you stop and consider what you would do in this world.  Would you rent out your body to make money?  How far would you go if you were desperate?  If you were an Ender, would you rent a Starter to feel young again?  And consider, too, how most people treat something that is rented – be it a car or a hotel room.  People are not nearly as careful with that which is borrowed, so you can start to imagine some of the possible implications for this book.  Could this be us 10 or 20 years down the road?
            I think Lissa Price’s writing is engaging and her ideas are fresh.  With the plots and stories she has developed, I can think of several ways that she could expand the series.  I am eagerly anticipating the second book, Enders, which is due out in December of 2012.    
            I totally recommend this book for middle-school and up.  Some of the themes are slightly more adult, but I would say less-so than The Hunger Games.  There is some romance, but no sex, and nothing beyond some smooching.  There is no foul language in the book and it is easy to follow.  Certainly there are no horrible deaths...  yet.  I give it two thumbs up - a great start to what will hopefully a great series!  Give me more! 


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