Title: Starters (Starters #1)
Author: Lissa Price
From Goodreads: "HER WORLD IS CHANGED FOREVER
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. . . ."
My thoughts: I've read some mixed reviews on this book, but I was intrigued enough by the synopsis that I requested it from NetGalley anyway. I have to admit that I wasn't very drawn to the cover, but again, the book's description was interesting, so I was looking forward to reading it. I must say that I wasn't disappointed! I thought it was a great dystopian, with enough creepiness to keep me interested from start to finish.
In the world that Lissa Price has invented, there has been a "Spore War", chemical warfare, that wiped out all the people who had not been inoculated. Since only the young and the old had received their inoculations when the war started, that means that all of the people between approximately 20 and 60 were gone now. Because of advancements in medicine, the Enders, as the older generation is called, can easily live to be 200 now. The only problem is, their bodies continue to age and they can't do the things that they used to be able to do. Enter the Starters, or the younger generation, who have the youthful bodies the Enders crave. A new technology has been invented wherein the Starters can rent out their bodies to the Enlders for weeks at a time, which enables the Enders to be young again, and the Starters to earn the money they need to live. Laws are in place that prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from working so the jobs can go to the longer living Enders. Unfortunately for kids like Callie, and her little brother Tyler, with no one to take care of them they are forced to live in abandoned buildings, trying to stay one step ahead of the law, who capture unclaimed kids and put them in institutions where they are forced to work at basically hard labor until they are 18. Tyler is also sick, so that puts even more strain on Callie to try to find someplace where they can live, and money to get medical attention for Tyler. She is helped by her friend, Michael, but there's only so much he can do either.
Callie hears about the program at Prime Destinations where kids who are attractive and physically fit can rent out their bodies to Enders for large sums of money, and although she finds the idea repulsive, she can't deny that the money would enable her to pay for a nice apartment or house for her and Tyler, and she would finally be able to buy the medicine that Tyler so desperately needs. She goes ahead and rents out her body for what she thinks is only going to be a week (but turns out to be a month) and that's when things go horribly wrong. She finds out that the Ender who wanted her body has other plans than just enjoying a youthful body for a little bit of fun. She's up to something much more dangerous, and it's up to Callie to somehow find a way to stop her, without losing her paycheck, or worse - her life.
I really enjoyed the world building in this book. No matter how far fetched the idea that seniors would be able to "rent" a body whenever they wanted, Lissa Price finds a way to make it all believable! The characters are well written, too. Callie is a very brave and likable heroine, and you can feel her love for her little brother in everything she does. Every decision she makes is based on how it will affect Tyler, which is completely understandable in light of the fact that they are all alone, with only each other to depend on. The story is told from Callie's POV and I think that works very well here. There are also flashbacks from the years leading up to the Spore Wars that help you understand what happened, how this made Callie into the girl she is, and where she gets her strength. I will tell you that the book ends with one heck of a cliffhanger - one that I definitely did not see coming - and I totally loved it!
I highly recommend this to fans of dystopian fiction, and I can't WAIT for the next installment of this series to come out! :D
Disclosure: I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion.