STARTERS by Lissa Price–Review

Your body. Rented out. Used to murder.

Lissa Price

Imagine being old—and wealthy enough to mentally inhabit the body of a young, healthy, attractive teen.

Imagine being a teen—down and out, scouring the city for empty buildings where you can live for free. You have little food; you are on the run from the authorities; and your only option for earning money is to give up the use of your body to old people who have the money and want a second shot at being young.

This is the America in which debut author Lissa Price’s newly released Starters takes place.

Callie is a Starter, one of the young who survived the biological weapon attack of the Pac Rim sea battles. The young and the old were vaccinated against the airborne disease. The middle-aged were supposed to be strong enough to fight off the disease, but it proved too strong. As a result, the demographics of America quickly shifted. There were Starters–children and teens, many of whom were left parentless; and they were greatly outnumbered by Enders—the older generation who, through new science, could easily live to be 200.

Callie, whose parents are among the dead, realizes that in her dire circumstances she will not be able to care for the sick brother. Against her better judgment, she goes to Prime Destinations and agrees to rent her body to an Ender. She goes through an extreme beautification process (reminiscent of Katniss being prepared for the pre-Hunger Games showing) and soon finds herself in a nightclub. Of course, she isn’t supposed to be aware of any of this. The computer chip they implanted malfunctions: she is supposed to be mentally sleeping away back at Prime Destinations (AKA the Body Bank) while her body is being inhabited by an Ender’s brain.

While dealing with her new reality and identity, she becomes aware of multiple nefarious plots—ones that affect her kind in general, and one that affects her specifically.

In this thriller, Price leads us deftly through the twists and turns of this brave new world. While Hunger Games frightened me with its power hungry government that exerted total control, Starters is frightening on a more technological level. Biological weapons are out there; deadly diseases could result in disastrous casualties. And it is not too much of a stretch to believe that we are nearly capable of this kind of body swap. It was easy to put myself in Callie’s shoes.

Though it felt like there were some possible plot holes, the end of the book cleared up most of them. And with juicy, cringe-worthy plot twists at the end, Price has me anxious for the second and final installment, Enders, due out at the end of the year.

(As a side note, I also like that that this is a two-book series instead of a trilogy. Does that make it a bilogy?)

For a great interview with Lissa Price, check out Beth Revis’ post today on the blog League of Extraordinary Writers.

A MONSTER CALLS–Reading aloud

Like poetry, a novel often takes on a new life when read aloud.

In October, I was reading a lot of Twitter chatter about A Monster Calls by an author named Patrick Ness. As a thank-you for some computer assistance I was able to offer, Alyson Beecher (@alybee930) sent me an ARC (advanced reader copy) of the book. I read it on the train to New York City, captivated by the mix of prose and unusual ink drawings.

Here is the book blurb fromt Ness’s site,

A Monster Calls

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Check out the awesome trailer:

And yet it wasn’t until my friend Brent Peterson read it and we started talking about it that I truly appreciated the book. Books can be like that: they are meant to be shared. And the tree of ideas that grows out of a conversation–fertilized by insights from both sides–is a thing of beauty.

If you know the book, you know why I chose tree for that metaphor.

After seeing the book passed around my classroom, and talking with other teachers who have since read it, I knew I needed to read it again. After finishing The Mighty Miss Malone, I knew it was the perfect time.

And still, I wanted to share it with my wife. I had told her so much about it. So as we were finishing dinner the other night I asked her if she’d let me read to her. She agreed, and after the kids were in bed we settled into the couch and I began.

I was amazed at how different the words felt coming off my tongue compared to how they bounced around inside my head. And my appreciation of the book grows all the more. It should be known that my wife was in no hurry for me to stop–38 pages later.

Here is a great recording of Ness reading from the first chapter of the book, followed by an interview with some background (it will pop up in a new window):

I’ll write more another time about the book itself. Perhaps you’d like to borrow a copy–or buy one yourself…

Whatever book you choose, try reading some of it aloud. Read to those older; read to a child; read to your peers. Let the words build a bridge between you.

In today’s Nerdy Book Club blog, Donalyn Miller–AKA “the Book Whisperer”–serendipitously posted about the importance of reading aloud. Check it out.