- Date published: 5th April 2012
- Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House AU)
- Format: Paperback, UK Edition, 336 pages
- Series: Starters and Enders, Book 1
- ISBN 13: 9780857531353 ISBN 10: 0857531352
- Categories: YA Science Fiction, Dystopian
- Goodreads / The Book Depository / Booktopia / Bookworld
- Source: purchased
First, Callie lost her parents.
Then she lost her home.
And, finally, she lost her body.
But she will stop at nothing to get it back …
I have had Starters for ages – I planned to read it as part of the 2012 Début Author Challenge but never got around to it. It is a surprisingly good read; it tells an exciting story of mystery and romance, set against a futuristic, dystopian backdrop. Although I was mostly impressed by the book, there are a few things that keep me from labelling it a favourite.
I like the protagonist, Callie, because she’s grounded and intelligent, and strongly motivated to keep her younger brother alive and healthy. I understood her, sympathised with her, and was rooting for her the whole way through. I also like Michael, her friend and only confidant in the strange new world (more on that later), but I began to feel disconnected with him about half way through the story, a feeling that stayed until it ended.
Callie’s world is dangerous and mysterious. Set in our near future (100 – 200 years, if I had to guess), Starters depicts the world after the end of a world-wide conflict that ended in biological warfare. Only the children and elderly had been vaccinated, being the most vulnerable in the society, and all the middle-aged people have since perished. The country is thus made up of children, who are called Starters and have no rights, and the elderly, Enders. Enders have all the power and money, and lifespans of up to 200 years. Life for an unclaimed minor – someone who was vaccinated and survived, but does not have the guardianship of grandparents or great aunts and uncles – is harsh.
It’s certainly an imaginative setting, made all the more terrifying by the onset of technology that allows the elderly to rent out a young person’s body for a period of time so that can enjoy the benefits of youth. Callie, pushed to desperation, decides to rent out her body, and the decision has terrible consequences that uncover a dangerous and inhumane conspiracy. I liked the world building, especially the detail with which Lissa Price paints the future, and the way that she describes the rental process. I do think it’s really weird that the Enders have lost all respect for human life and are so eager to rent out the young bodies, but maybe it’s a side effect of living well beyond 100.
I think the story is told creatively and that Callie makes a wonderful narrator. I do think there are a few events in the book that really didn’t make any sense, and took away from my experience of the book. The most notable of these is a ridiculous scene in which Callie is interrogating a boy about his grandfather’s plans. Dates, times, people, she knows everything and is basically trying to get him to confirm that she has the right information. Instead of prompting him, she says (and I paraphrase) “I know your grandfather will be here at this time and with these people“, and the boy answers without asking why this girl is stalking his family, or why she’s so interested in his grandfather’s plans. Of course, there is a plot twist near the end of the novel that supposedly explains this, but I still think it’s weird.
I liked Starters and believe it’s a great début. I am definitely going to check out the sequel, Enders, when it’s available. I think the book could have improved a little in execution but is otherwise a worthwhile read for fans of YA Dystopias.