Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Beta (Beta #1) by Rachel Cohn

Release Date: October 16, 2012
(Thanks to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Published by: Hyperion

Beta (Beta #1) by Rachel Cohn

In a world constructed to absolute perfection, imperfection is difficult to understand—and impossible to hide.

Elysia is a clone, created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen year old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of teenaged clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to be created.

Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air there induces a strange, euphoric high that only the island's workers—soulless clones like Elysia—are immune to.

At first, Elysia's new life on this island paradise is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, the most privileged people in the world who should want for nothing, yearn. And, she comes to realize that beneath its flawless exterior, there is an undercurrent of discontent amongst Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care—so why are overpowering sensations clouding Elysia's mind?

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When Elysia's one chance at happiness is ripped away from her with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she's always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.

Ten Likes/dislikes:

1. (+) Elysia, the protagonist - Elysia is the epitome of the smart and strong female protagonist who goes through tough times and emerges better for it. It's easy to sympathize with her from the start (though mostly, I felt that was because of her situation, and the writing in the beginning is excellent for that purpose, cutting off scenes to maximize the emotion). Her character development is portrayed very realistically through the story - as my friend put it, she goes from being "an innocent clone" to becoming a hardened woman who would do what it takes to secure her freedom and survive (truly interesting part will be to see how far Elysia will have to go in the next books--will she ever get as bad as the society she escapes?) The only thing was kind of bothersome was that Elysia was smarter than what I'd perceive of a sixteen year old clone.
2. (+) World building - Rachel Cohn really makes it into her own story, one in which you can imagine your place in society. Though it was a futuristic world, it had a lot of issues relevant to today - wealth and social status mattered a lot to the people of Demense, and there's a distinct class inequity. As my friend, who also read the book, says, the book's world dealt with real issues which made it believable. The island is very disconnected from the real world, and you get hints that the rest of the world don't agree with the cloning process which sets the stage for an interesting conflict in later books. I almost wish there was a map, though, because I lost track of where the other cities and islands were. 
3. (+) Romance - To me, this was the most predictable of all the elements, but I still felt that it was well done. There are two distinct romantic interests but no love triangle. In fact, I'm getting the hint that one of the characters will be a foil for the other in the later books (though I wonder if it will be a love triangle later...).  Both romantic interests have distinct personalities and character conflicts that fit in nicely with Elysia's character growth -- to me, it didn't seem as believable because it was kind of quick but I did believe in the self-discovery Elysia finds through each of the guys. The romance is much more of a side plot than anything else (though there a few chapters dedicated to it).
4. (+) Themes - I loved how the themes in this book had historical resonance. It was a darker book than a lot of YA novels that I've read recently. My friend told me that she liked that it explored slavery, sexual abuse, and prejudice.
5. (+) Action packed - There's constantly something happening -- even in the lull periods, you get the sense that there's something brewing beneath the surface. Even if I could predict was some of what going to happen, I still wanted to see it unfold.
6. (--) Science Fiction? - The ARC summary implied that this book was the first in a science-fiction series, and I feel compelled to say that the science is very, very minimal. You don't learn about the process of making a clone or how the environment of Demesne is scientifically engineered. The book focuses more on the themes and the dystopian element.
7. (+) Villains - One of the best parts about this book was that there was no one specific villain, that instead the book pointed out the bad seed in human nature.
8. (+) Writing - The writing was very succinct and mostly believable when it came to Elysia being clone-like and without emotion in the beginning. There were a few times where it seemed like Elysia's narrative was not as bot-like as it could have been, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story.
9. (+) Pacing - Great pacing -- even when it stops and slows for you in the middle so you can catch up with everything, there's still something going on.
10. (+/-) Cover - Nice cover, with the tattoo and the colors and her eyes, but still... still another cover with a girl's face on it.

A well written and fast paced story that delves into human nature and what it means to be alive.


  1. Seems good! I don't like sci-fi so it's even better for me :D

  2. That's great that it doesn't disappoint! This actually kind of reminds me of Glitch, but hopefully it won't be exactly the same.

  3. Addie - it sounds like Glitch, but it's a lot darker, and there's a lot less focus on the romance than there was in Glitch. Personally enjoyed Beta more.


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