I have seen Starters in the front shelves of National Bookstore early last year, freshly published. Immediately, I fell in love with the cover art. It was so entrancing! I wanted to buy it, but it was worth more than 500 pesos, and I don’t usually buy books in that price bracket. So when our company Christmas Party drew near, I wrote Starters in my wishlist. And imagine my delight when the one who got my name—dressed as Bane of Batman in our masquerade-themed Christmas party—handed me a book. A book! And it was Starters by Lissa Price, along with its lovely cover art—the whitish picture of a girl with intriguing expression, her other eye colored blue in contrast with the immaculate whiteness.
Due to my high pile of to-read books, I had to delay reading Starters. I wanted to feel a rich reading experience for it, and decided to read it in weekend. When I finally tore the plastic wrapping of the book, I felt an intense shimmer of delight.
Starters is Lissa Price’s debut novel. It is a story of Callie Woodland, an orphaned girl living with her brother Tyler and her friend Michael in a society where there are only two kinds of people: the Starters and Enders. Starters are the youth struggling to live, and Enders are the old people struggling not to die. In this society, there are no middle-aged adults—everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty are wiped out due to Spore Wars. Set in Los Angeles, California (mostly in the affluent Beverly Hills), there is a company called Prime Destination. Here, Starters could “donate” their bodies for a hefty price, and Enders could pay an equally hefty payment to rent the bodies of their Starters and feel young again.
“Fans of The Hunger Games will love it,” said the blurb in the cover. I also think that THG and Starters have a couple similarities, due to the fact that both are YA dystopian novels; however the two should not be compared. They are widely different from each other.
While I was reading Starters, my mind keep on saying, “Oh god, this is sick!” And it is sick, indeed. Imagine a teenager renting her body to some unknown old person? I don’t know it the concept is revolting enough to you (it surely wasn’t very revolting for me when I read the summary back then), but as I was reading it—even from the first chapter—I kept on thinking how sick that society is. Where are human rights? Where is morality? What about child abuse? It was utterly sick.
In this book is most Enders—older adults—are depicted as nonchalant and callous to the plight of orphan Starters. In fact, they are the ones inadvertently forcing the Starters to rent their bodies. They are the ones who unsympathetically rent the bodies of these poor kids to indulge themselves in the joys of youth. They were old in years, but treat their renter bodies recklessly because they paid a high price of it.
What is hauntingly creepy in Starters is that the society is technologically advanced, yet they still have a democratic government complete with senate and president. I mean, I live in a democratic society. Most dystopian novels I’ve read were in a dictatorial, tyrannical, or collapsing government, but Starters is set in a democratic government. And look: orphaned kids living in the street, law enforcement officers hunting these kids down to lock them in cruel institution, teenagers selling their bodies, adults who are uncompassionate with them—these all happen in my society. But the sick concept of selling your body to be rented to other person while your brain is supposedly shut down—where is the democracy in that? The similarities with Starters’ society and my kind of society is uncannily alike in various of ways that made me think, this could happen to my world. Or—I know and hope it’s not—might be happening in the underground society of my universe.
Starters is an awesome, brilliant, and thrilling novel; and I greatly enjoyed reading this. However, the characters have a lot of potentials that weren’t deeply explored. Like the male characters—Michael’s character could have been expounded; and Blake (although I don’t really like him) could have been given more intensity. The Old Man, too; he could have been given more focus. But instead the novel is thoroughly focused with Callie. I also think that Callie has a selfish side for wanting to have Blake as well as Michael. Although I have to give her credit for her affection for Tyler. That was the weakness of the novel—the shallowness of the characters—and if only Lissa Price was more attentive to it, it would have been an exceptional book.
And the cliffhanger in the end! Oh my, it was excruciatingly tormenting! But it was beautifully made! It made me want to read the sequel more! I’m definitely waiting for it. This book is definitely worth my time.