It's rare that I don't finish a book that I received for review but it was a close call with Starters. While I thought the story was interesting I began getting irritated by some of the ridiculous decisions that Callie, the sixteen year-old protagonist, was making. After a while I got fed up and I put the ebook aside until it expired, but then I felt bad about not finishing it so when I came across the book in my library I decided to give the book another shot.
Here's the synopsis, from Goodreads:
- 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. . .
In my second reading of the book I tried not to get too bothered by Callie's poorly-made decisions and to just assume that they were due to her age. Perhaps any sixteen year-old would ask personal and dangerous favors of cute guys they just met and go off blithely to meet with dangerous men that they have no hope against. I'm pretty sure that if I were sixteen years-old and reading this book none of this would have bothered me in the least, so I decided to assume that it's an age thing.
What bothered me more, though, was the fact that we don't really get to know any of the characters other than Callie. We do meet a lot of characters throughout the story including Callie's little brother, two possible love interests, the woman renting Callie's body and some of the other elderly renters, but only briefly. And those characters that we do spend a bit more time with we only get to know in a superficial way. This was particularly problematic towards the end when Callie chooses to ally herself with certain acquaintances whom she assumes are reliable though they seemed to me to be just as bad as everyone else in the story. I couldn't tell if this was another foolish decision on her part or if the lack of character development just made it hard for me to judge these characters the same way that Callie did. I'm pretty sure, though, that it was the lack of character development.
And finally, there was the matter of the rather dubious premises for the story, which never really made much sense to me. I just wasn't convinced that in a scenario in which all the adult are killed off, that the elderly would respond by turning against the children and having them hunted down and imprisoned, while gathering for themselves power and wealth. This just didn't seem plausible. I was also confused by the fact that, as we eventually learn, not all of the kids are imprisoned or on the streets. There are some children who have living grandparents to comfortably care for them, but we don't hear much about them or what percentage of the population they make up.
I had also assumed for the majority of the story that all of the remaining adults were pretty much evil and corrupt though suddenly, towards the end, we discover that this isn't the case, which made me realize that the story had actually given us a very narrow and unbalanced view of this world, which was frustrating.
I can't say that this a story that I would recommend to my friends though I could see that younger readers may enjoy it. The whole body rental idea was creative and satisfyingly creepy and towards the end the story does get pretty exciting. There is even an unexpected revelation in the end, which I always love, and which completely surprised me because I had thought that I had everything figured out by then. So I guess I'm glad that I finally finished the story though I don't think I'll be picking up the sequel.