Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review: Starters by Lissa Price

Release Date: March 13, 2012
(Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers!)
Published by: Random House

Starters by Lissa Price


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. . . .

One of those books that was super hyped but I'm afraid that didn't cut it for me. I really wanted to enjoy this book, but as I'm sitting here, trying to think of how it made me feel, I can't really think of many positives.


1. (+) Pacing - One thing I will say is that I didn't put my computer down until I had finished the book. It was easy and quick to read, and I never once got bored while reading it.
2. (+) The Cover - I really like this cover, the sci-fi feel of it, and I even liked the chapter heading decorations, with their little chips. It fits with the book.
3. (+) Unpredictability - Another reason I didn't put down the book was because I couldn't predict what was going to happen next, and even though I didn't feel attached to the characters and was rather disenchanted by other aspects, I wanted to know what would happen.


4. (+/-) Callie, the protagonist - I could tell that she was strong and clever, protective and wary, but I felt distanced from her. Because she's so focused on survival, you don't really get a chance to know her character--what she likes, what she would do if she wasn't in this situation. There were a few details mentioned here and there, like her ability to use a gun, because her father taught her how to do that, but it doesn't seem like she likes it much.  So what does she truly like?  What distinguishes her from other heroines just like her (i.e. Katniss, for one)?
5. (+/-) The Writing - at times, it was smooth and easy to read... but what bothered me was the use of similes. Car engine purring like a tiger--what does that add to the story except another cliche? There were a lot more than that, and there was one in particular that bothered me--about the garage door opening like the gates to heaven, and I thought this is the author. I'm not sure Callie would believe in heaven after what she's been through. Also, she's not a particularly religious person so it's out of character for her to even think like that, and it shouldn't be in the narrative.
6. (+/-) The Villain - On one hand, you've got this great set-up for a mysterious villain--he's known only as the Old Man, no one's ever seen his actual face, he wears a mask that projects what he wants you to see, even his voice sounds mechanical, etc. etc. But then the plot twist at the end just ruined for me. I couldn't think of him as being dangerous anymore or really think of him without confusion.


7. (--) World-building - I was left with way too many questions at the end and during this novel. For one, what are spores?  I think I've read about them in microbio?, but you can't just assume your readers are going to know what those are. Secondly, everything about this Spore War bothers me. Why was it fought? What was that Pac... something (another country?)?  Here's the real issue for me: if it's the foundation for your world being the way it is, then you need to explain it. I don't care if you have to add in three info-dump paragraphs--it's better than being left in the dark and not being able to suspend my disbelief.  Also, why do minors have to be claimed?  And what are Renegades?  These details and more are left unexplained when I really wanted more.
8. (--) The Romance - To me, that Michael situation felt incredibly awkward. The first time we're introduced to Michael, Callie doesn't show any sort of romantic inclination to him. I thought there be something there later, like it would grow slowly between them but then the next time we see him, he's asking permission to kiss her? It was like a slap in the face. It seemed so random, and not as established as it could have been. There's another romance but I couldn't get into that one either, because it lacked chemistry. They seemed more like friends, and he in particular seemed like such a pushover (which I understand now, but as I was reading, I just couldn't see the two of them together).
9. (--) Plot Holes - There were a couple of plot holes... like there's this time when Callie collapses, and this other girl thinks that she's drunk... but then a page or so later, Callie expresses surprise at the fact that the bartender would serve the girl a drink.  Why didn't the girl notice this?  And another time that really bothered me was when the villain's minions are chasing Callie. I don't understand how they could've lost her--they can track her; why wouldn't the higher up villains be on the phone with these hired assassins, telling them where Callie is?  To me, that seems like the smart thing to do, especially if you're going to waste resources trying to kill this girl.
10. (--) Contrived - The reason why Callie ends up returning to Prime Destinations felt too contrived to me. Too much like a convenient event meant to make me feel sympathetic for her, Michael, and her brother. And the worst part was that I felt like it could've been fixed with a few strategically placed sentences earlier-- if I had any inkling that that kind of thing could happen, I would've understood it more. We were told about marshalls, but not about that kind of treatment from Enders (and it might've helped if I understood this whole unclaimed minors thing).

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