Book Review: Starters by Lissa Price

Starters cover imageI always love to read author Christina Hamlett’s insightful reviews. Today she is stopping by  with her thoughts of the book Starters by Lissa Price.

Title: Starters
Author: Lissa Price
Genre: YA
Publisher: Delacorte Books (2012)

Despite this dystopian novel’s underlying political message that wealth is synonymous with evil and that the old guard can only retain its grip on power by physically “occupying” the youth movement, the author has crafted a gripping, plausible premise that could easily topple The Hunger Games in today’s YA market. It clearly has film potential written all over it, and the gutsy heroine at the core of the crisis is someone with whom readers will empathize from the get-go.

Although it borrows some of its futuristic themes from existing novels and movies, the YA emphasis gives it a fresh, page-turning spin that offers teeth-gritting danger at virtually every turn. In addition, it provides no shortage of food-for-thought for book clubs and discussion groups, specifically insofar as the lengths that desperate people will go to in order to ensure their survival in a hostile world. Dark parallels can be drawn to teen prostitution and the makeover of young innocents like Callie into appealing eye-candy that will subsequently be used by others in exchange for money. The body bank that controls these transactions is the functional equivalent of a pimp, complete with threat mechanisms if the parties in question start getting ideas of their own about flipping the status quo.

It’s also a clever device that a mysterious, air-borne plague has wiped out everyone who is middle-age (a proxy for the middle class?), leaving only the very young (who are poor) and the very old (who are rich). I’m reminded of how many times a new strain of flu surfaces and the public is advised that those with the weakest immune systems (children and seniors) are a priority for getting shots because they might not otherwise survive. In Starters, that possibility serves as the grim reality that kicks all of the danger into high-gear.

Obviously my own analysis of symbolism and political motifs may just be a product of the country’s current mindset which is repeatedly fueled by divisiveness and reinforced by have/have-not hatred geared to attract votes. Whether or not that was this wonderful author’s intention, the unsettling election-year climate that exists makes the intensity and sustainability of this plot that much easier to accept. My only cautionary note is that you clear the decks, turn off the phone, and tell your family they’ll have to find their own food when you plan to start reading; from the opening chapter you won’t be able to put it down until you’re finished.

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