SUMMARY: When biological warfare wipes out everyone between the ages of 20-60, only children and teens (“Starters”) and senior citizens (“Enders”) remain in the US. With Enders living well into their 100s, many wealthy Enders long to be young again, and Prime Destinations has found a way to make that possible. For a large fee, wealthy Enders can rent the bodies of teen Starters for short periods of time. Desperate for money to help her sick brother, sixteen-year old Callie accepts an invitation to become a donor body for an Ender renter. At first, Callie’s body donations seems easy. She falls asleep, then wakes up a week later with no memory of the past seven days. But when something goes wrong and Callie wakes up in her renter’s life, Callie discovers the shocking truth Prime Destinations is hiding.
REVIEW: So much potential for this one! Starters really does have everything going for it: a beautiful front cover, an interesting trailer, a great premise. Indeed, it started out very interesting, and I got sucked into the story easily. Callie is a well-drawn character whose motives for donating her body are completely understandable. She is tough and does what is necessary for survival. I love the world Price has built and how teens and children are second-class citizens with no rights and, in some cases, no freedom. The technology in the future setting is interesting–holos, Zinging, computerized masks–all very cool and different.
But as I got deeper into the story it kind of fell apart for me. I had to suspend some serious belief to begin with–the technology of swapping the consciousness of donors and renters is really out there–but the events following Callie’s waking in her own body are just too much for me to believe. For example, why would some Enders be out to help the donors, even as they are renting teen bodies? If they really wanted to help, why did they not use their money to get involved on a community or political level? And while Callie’s character is well-defined, none of the other characters receive the same treatment. Michael is barely in the story at all. Tyler is just the whiny, dependent little brother. The only thing we really know about Helena is that she is looking for her granddaughter. Sara is a little interesting, but she isn’t really a major character. And then there is empty-headed, pretty-boy Blake. He is so dull and clueless, and I had no idea why Callie would have any interest in him. And the ending? Ugh.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Overlong and unbelievable, Starters seriously was not for me, despite my love for post-apocalyptic sci-fi. I do, however, believe many, many middle school students will love it.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I booktalked this to my students today, and WOW. They were so into it! I have ordered it for the library. I will have a very difficult time recommending it, even though I am sure my students will be interested. Middle school librarians, this one will be a hit, and I have no content concerns at all.
READALIKES: The Host (Stephenie Meyer); Uglies (Scott Westerfeld)
- Overall: 3/5
- Creativity: 3/5
- Characters: 2/5
- Engrossing: 3/5
- Writing: 3/5
- Appeal to teens: 5/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: none
- Violence: mild; physical fighting, talk of murder
- Drugs/Alcohol: none