sunshine and stardust
The premise of Starters by Lissa Price is intriguing: a future, dystopian world where people between the ages of twenty and sixty die due to the Spore Wars. All that’s left are Starters; the young and Enders; those over the age of sixty and who can live up to two hundred years old due to advances in medicine. The main character, Callie lives in abandoned buildings with her ill brother Tyler and their friend Michael. Callie and Tyler’s parents died in the Spore Wars and like so many other Starters they are ‘unclaimed’ by any Enders and so must survive on their own. Due to their lack of money, her desperation to restore her brother to health and their desire for a proper home, Callie signs up to rent out her body to Enders for an illegal company called Prime Destinations.
Enders want to be young and beautiful again; to experience the heady exhilaration of youth. After her mind is connected to a computer, the Ender’s consciousness takes over Callie’s body and spends their allotted time bungee-jumping, partying and so on. However, the third time Callie rents her body out something goes horribly wrong and she wakes up in her own body. She has to figure out why she woke up so early, whose voice she can hear in her head and why her renter is asking her to kill.
I had really high expectations of Starters and thought the story had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it fell short of my expectations. First, there wasn’t enough world building. There were a lot of questions that were unanswered such as how the Spore Wars started and what long-term effects there were. At one point, Callie states that she doesn’t like thinking about the war and thus we aren’t given any more information on it. How come the young and old were only vaccinated in time and not key workers?
In Starters, humans can live longer. I wanted a lot more detail as to how this worked. Wouldn’t sixty be the new thirty? Why didn’t youth last longer? Why was old age prolonged? Furthermore, as the story progressed, I grew increasingly frustrated as I had so many more questions. Why was Callie so trusting of Prime Destinations; she didn’t even read the entire contract before she signed over her body.
I didn’t feel invested in Callie; I felt indifferent to her. There wasn’t time to build an emotional connection to her when there was so much action going on around her and when a great host of flat secondary characters were being introduced. Price didn’t give enough information for me to be hooked. I found a number of plot holes and had a handful more questions by the end. I was puzzled by many of the characters’ actions and motives.
I was not invested in the romance aspect of the story. It was forced and I did not feel the connection between the two characters. By the revelations at the end, I felt somewhat disgusted. Revelations in the second book Enders might change this, but I didn’t get enough information in Starters to warrant further reading. I felt cheated at the end because there was no chance at guessing the twist because there were absolutely no clues.
Though the writing was good and the story was fast-paced, this wasn’t enough for me to love Starters. Overall, while the premise was gripping, the execution failed.
Thanks for the review Kulsuma, what a shame that it didn't work out for you!