Book Briefs: Starters by Lissa Price


Lissa Price

Guest contributer Christina Huang reviews Starters, a futuristic thriller novel by Lissa Price. For those looking for a fast-paced, post-apocalyptic science-fiction read, Starters is the perfect pick.

Christina Huang, Guest Contributor

A world in ruins. 

Pressure to do what’s necessary to survive. 

A process that ‘puts teens to sleep’ as their body is taken over. 

It’s an interesting set-up for a futuristic YA thriller. Starters, a novel by Lissa Price, is a dystopian novel published in over thirty countries and the first of a duology. 

Following an apocalyptic event mentioned as the ‘Spore Wars,’ everyone between the ages of 20 and 60—with the exception of the significantly rich and influential—who had been unvaccinated, was eradicated, leaving behind a world split between teens and Enders—seniors that are described as so ancient, an Ender around the age of 100 is considered to be young for an Ender.

From the start, readers are brought into a world noticeably different from reality, through the eyes of Callie Woodland, a 16-year-old girl living as a squatter with her 7-year-old brother, Tyler, who is unwell with something that’s described as a rare lung disease and only one other friend, Michael, to rely on. This way of living isn’t uncommon, however, as in their world, fresh water is a dream and so many are on the run from Marshals, Enders who act as police officers. 

Callie is faced with a proposition that could give her brother the home and care he needs. To do so? She needs to ‘rent out’ her body three times until she gets her payment. Prime Destinations, the company offering her this choice, is requiring her to give up her body to them, letting them give her a makeover before putting her to sleep as an Ender, with their mind now connected to hers, is able to move her body around as they wish, living through her to do the things they can’t anymore. 

It’s an offer she leaves, determining that through all their reassurance that it’s completely safe and there are strict rules to prohibit Enders from doing certain things while in her body, there must be a catch. But when she’s left without a place to stay again, this time with the last memories of her parents disappearing with it, she returns to Prime Destinations, agreeing to have her body taken over for the span of three rentals. 

The process is fairly smooth, and while readers may be suspicious through it all, the first rental goes just as easily as the Enders at Prime Destinations assured her. Then, the second. When it comes to her third, hearing the duration of it—this one being a month—moves her to request to see Tyler, at least to give him a warning of the length of time she would be gone. 

When her third comes by, it goes as well as the rest— until it doesn’t. She wakes up, before she was supposed to with a voice giving her warnings in her head and no idea where she is. Following the voice, she lives that life, pretending as though nothing happened. It works well. That is, until she stumbles on the secrets of her renter and Prime Destinations. The company’s plans for the future. Why she keeps blacking out, control of her body switching from her and her renter. 

The book goes along quickly as Callie uncovers the secrets and though readers aren’t given any major hints throughout the book, allowing them to figure everything out along with her, some readers may be able to see certain plot events coming. It isn’t incredibly thrilling, but keeps readers interested and wanting to know what happens next as the plot continues to unravel, spilling out more of its secrets.

There are a few things not explained, however, particularly about the Spore Wars, such as the reason for them, and a Cinderella-esque scene added to the book felt almost out of nowhere. Though it wasn’t something unwelcome, the resemblance to the classic may have been startling to some. 

Readers are left with a resolution that feels incomplete, most likely in order to complete it with the sequel, but it feels like the type of incomplete resolution that doesn’t exactly need a sequel but piques readers’ interest for one, leaving them either craving one or thinking out their own interpretation of one. 

Starters is a comparatively fast-paced story for readers looking for a post-apocalyptic science-fiction with some romance, one with an intriguing antagonist—though a specific antagonist isn’t identified until the middle of the book; although it isn’t difficult to determine who it is from the start—likable characters, and twists near the end leaving readers in shock, it makes for a good book of just slightly over 300 pages to capture readers’ interest.