I was really excited for Lissa Price’s book. I received a preview from NCTE and was immediately taken with the book cover as well as the concept.
Cool cover, right? Here’s the cool concept: Starters starts after the Spore Wars, Callie and her younger brother, Tyler, lost their parents because the only ones vaccinated were the senior citizens and children. The result is that parents were wiped out leaving only kids, known as Starters, and the old folks who now live well beyond 100, known as Enders. Callie and her brother, along with their friend Michael, have no grandparents, so they are unclaimed minors who live as squatters, constantly on the run from authorities lest they end up in an institution. Things get rough enough that Callie succumbs to the body bank, a place that will pay her handsomely for renting out her body to Enders who just want to experience youth again. Tyler is sickly and needs a roof over her head. Callie does this for him, but things don’t go as planned. Callie’s renter is not just an Ender who wants to relive her youth. She has an agenda, and this agenda could be much more dangerous for Callie than just being a squatter.
It’s a great concept, well thought out, with plenty of twists to keep the plot moving. In fact, the twist on which the novel ends (this is book 1 of 2) may have me hooked for more. But I just didn’t connect with Callie, the protagonist. I’m usually able to see some of myself in a YA protagonist, but where Callie has the perspective of an older sister forced to grow up and take care of her little brother, I looked at her decisions through the eyes of a mom with a child of my own right around Tyler’s age (he’s seven). I would do anything to protect my children. Anything…but not if it would put them at any sort of risk, and Callie puts Tyler at risk by leaving him and trusting Enders who give her no reason to do so. I understand that her motives were in favor of her brother’s safety, but I just couldn’t see it through her eyes, and that’s what made reading the book difficult for me, a disconnect with the main character. Younger readers probably feel differently, and I’m ok with that. The book is meant for their perspective, not mine.