"STARTERS," by Lissa Price, Delacorte Press, $17.99, 352 pages (f)(14 and up)
In Lissa Price's new dystopian novel, Callie and her brother, Tyler, are on their own after the Spore Wars killed everyone between the ages of 20 and 60. Living on the streets with their friend, Michael, every day is a fight for survival. Food and water are scarce and dangerous to obtain.
Callie turns to Prime Destinations as her final hope in providing for her brother. Callie sells her body as a renter to an Ender, a senior that wants to experience youth again. All she has to do is make it through three rentals, and the wealth and security that she so desperately wants will be hers. But when her chip malfunctions, causing the link to be broken with her renter, she discovers that her body is being used as an assassin.
“Starters” is an intense, engaging debut. From the starting paragraph, Price very expertly creates the high stakes under which Callie is forced to rent out her body. Because of her parents’ death and the lack of any living relatives, she is an unclaimed minor, at the mercy of the authorities and the dangerous lawless teens that roam the streets. With the money from being a rental, she can purchase a home and ensure the safety of her little brother. The bond and emotion between the two characters are quickly apparent, which is essential, since much of the story is spent while Lissa is being rented.
The plot and pacing of “Starters” are fast enough that it makes up for the minor shortcomings in building the world that Callie lives in. Not much information is given about the Spore Wars, or even what the spores were. There is also brevity in the explanation of exactly how a body really can be rented by another human being and the ability to use a body autonomously from its original owner. There are also some passages, particularly dialogue at the end, that are awkwardly written and used as an info-dump in exposition.
With its exciting plot twists, including an incredibly important one at the end, “Starters” will keep readers guessing and engaged to the very end. But with several e-original short stories and the sequel, “Enders,” to be released in December, readers won’t have to wait long for more about Callie.
“Starters” contains no swearing, very minor sexual references and some violence. It is best suited for teens 14 and older.
IF YOU GO ...
What: Lissa Price book signing
When: Monday, March 19, 7 p.m.
Where: Barnes and Noble, Jordan Landing, 7157 Plaza Center Dr., West Jordan
Emily Ellsworth is a blogger at Emily's Reading Room online at emilysreadingroom.com, and is a blog dedicated to promoting a love of young adult fiction.