Review: Starters by Lissa Price

Page Count: 352
Published On: March 13, 2012
Goodreads Rating: 3.91
Format: Kindle 
Buy viaAmazon | Barnes & Noble
Summary: In a future Los Angeles, becoming someone else is now possible. Sixteen-year-old Callie discovers the Body Bank where teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. But when her neurochip malfunctions, she wakes up in the mansion of her rich renter and finds she is going out with a senator’s grandson. It’s a fairy-tale new life, until she discovers her renter’s deadly plan. . .  [x]

I was originally drawn to Starters because of an ad praising the book in Entertainment Weekly. It stated that the book would be loved by fans of The Hunger Games. Naturally, I was intrigued because I loved The Hunger Games and while every new dystopian book claims to be the next THG, I can say that Starters comes pretty close to that level of perfection. Also, the cover looks like the young Wight girl from the Game of Thrones pilot which is a definite plus.

The main plot centers around a teenage girl named Callie who is trying to survive on the streets with her younger brother Tyler and best friend Michael. In a refreshing premise, Callie's initial motivation is to provide for her sickly brother and not because she is trying to impress anyone. Pure desperation pushes her to enroll in the body bank ("Prime Destinations") where the contract requirements are as simple as going to sleep for a bit. However, due to some kind of malfunction, Callie wakes up during the process and realizes that her Ender, Helena, is plotting something truly horrible. The reader and Callie discover together that Helena's mission is incredibly complicated and soon they become allies in a race against time that crescendos into a killer twist ending that will leave you breathless.

The world-building is one of the biggest assets of the entire book. It paints a disturbing picture of what life would be like if most of the world's population was eradicated by "deadly spores", leaving only the vaccinated children ("Starters") and the elderly ("Enders") behind to pick up the pieces. This creates quite the generation gap and while children can be claimed by their grandparents, many are abandoned and have to take to the streets to survive. Technology has also progressed to the point that the average lifespan can be extended to around 200 years old. This is possible because of advancements in preventative medicine and hygiene. There is also a pretty cool social media-virtual reality hybrid ("holos") that can even put a person right in the middle of the action. This technology is also used to hide "The Old Man", a mysterious, shrouded figure who runs the Body Bank and whose identity will be probably be unmasked in the sequel Enders. I have my theories, but I do not want to distract the reader into discovering their own.

Another thing I love about this book is how it poses certain moral questions involving identity, society, and basic human rights. Should anyone be allowed to live for 200 years even if medicine makes it possible? Should those at the end of their lives take advantage of those who have yet to live? Above all, parents and grandparents want what's best for their children and grandchildren. Some even want to live through their children, pushing them to impossible standards so they can exceed their wildest dreams. In this book, grandparents are literally living in their children (well, somebody's child) in an attempt to recapture their glory days. Does this twisted version of reincarnation violate basic individual liberties? Even if permission is children even have the authority to know to what they are agreeing? Does money give certain people rights over others, even the right to use other people's bodies and perhaps do unspeakable things with and to them? Does society have a right to betray itself and then blame the younger generation for their crimes? A generation that is forced to live on the streets, scavenge, and steal simply because the world betrayed them? Why does every dystopian society try to punish the youths for the mistakes of their leaders? This could be an excellent book for teachers to use in the discussion of these big questions and issues.

My only major gripe with this book was the unnecessary love triangle. For a majority of the book, it felt very much like a one-pairing story (Callie/Michael) and while I understand the importance of Blake's character to the main plot, I do not understand why his character needed to be inserted into the ending like some sort of tribute to One Tree Hill's famous Travis "Reoffender" moment in Season 1. It was the only moment in the book that did not feel genuine and instead felt manufactured to please the young adult literature triangle gods. It was because of this distracting contrivance that I had to deduct from the final rating. I can only hope that if there is an endgame pairing, it will be the one with the deepest roots.

In conclusion, Starters is a dystopian mystery thriller that you want to experience. Like Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, becoming someone else is only the tip of a very, very warped iceberg.


  1. Great review, Susan. I have been meaning to read this. I have been debating about whether to buy it in paperback or read it on my kindle. Is it good enough to buy?

    - Jen

  2. Fabulous review! I really do want to check this book out soon. It sounds good plus it seems like it raises up some fascinating questions!

  3. Jen: Thank you for your review! The book is excellent! The world-building is really, really strong and the main character is incredibly fierce and tenacious. The only, only gripe I had was with the manufactured love triangle that popped up at the end. It REALLY annoyed me so much I had to knock off a star. I just felt like it came out of nowhere, but don't let that take away from your enjoyment of the book.

    Shauna: Thanks sis! :)

  4. Triangles are everywhere these days, so I am not surprise there is one.
    Hopefully its not as bad in book 2.

    - Jen

  5. Jen: It's true that triangles are a staple of YA, but this triangle literally came out of nowhere at the very end. It's one thing if it was being built up the whole time, but it wasn't. Can't wait to see what you think of the book! :)


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Once upon a time, there were two sisters -Susan and Shauna - who were moved and mesmerized by stories through any medium, since they were teeny tiny. This passion stayed with them throughout adulthood, and after becoming even more enthralled with Young Adult fiction in recent times (and some Adult & MG!) they decided they just had to open up their own book blog and share their enthusiasm with the world, or well, to anyone who would listen.

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