Book Review: STARTERS by Lissa Price

This review is by my YA contributor, Mena Dolinh (aka my niece), 10, who’s no slouch in her pop culture knowledge.—PCN

This book is about a sixteen-year-old girl named Callie who decides to become a starter. Starters are teens who rent their bodies to rich old people, but Callie wakes up during her rental and finds out that the renter is planning to commit murder while being inside her body.

I think this book can appeal to kids and adults alike but the concept of renting bodies is kind of creepy. Besides the fact that all my friends wanted to read Starters when I had it on my desk in class since they knew it was an advance copy, I think young adults in general will be attracted to this book because it’s filled with fighting and action, like in the Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games books. It keeps Starters fast-moving and not sappy like Judy Blume books that can appeal only to girls. Adults can enjoy this, too, because it has lots of gadgets. The evil guy in the book is called the Old Man, and he wears an electronic mask that keeps flashing a series of different computer-generated faces, like a character in the episode of Doctor Who called “The Idiot’s Lantern.”

While I like the idea of renting bodies because it’s kind of dark, in general the concept of the book is not entirely new. I can find many similarities in The Hunger Games and [Scott Westerfeld’s] Uglies. For example, in Hunger Games, Katniss lives off her hunting to support her mom and her sister, Prim. In Starters, Callie supports her brother, Tyler, from her high-paying job as a starter. In Uglies, Tally, the main character, gets an operation that all teens get when they turn sixteen to make them pretty. After the operation, everyone lives in New Pretty Town where they spend their life partying. In Starters, the same thing happens when Callie has to get a complete makeover so the renters can go and have fun.

The concept also doesn’t really make sense. Renting bodies would take a while to get approved [by the government], and if you do it illegally, it’d be hard to keep it a secret and would cost a fortune since you have to make over all the dirty kids. And it would be really hard to keep teenagers looking perfect all the time because their bodies are still changing.

I wish the author had gone into more depth with the characters because when a character is introduced, it’s not detailed enough for me to really picture him or her in my head. Callie is a tough girl who knows how to fight and use a gun and is always being chased by the bad guys, but I don’t know if she has blond or brown hair or what color her skin is. Another example is Callie’s close friend Michael. He’s introduced as a friend who stays with Callie and Tyler. He helps Callie find shelter while they are on the run but the author never describes what he looks like or what his backstory is.

This is the first book out of two [Ed. note: Enders, the sequel, will be published in December] so the ending is a cliffhanger. It’s a little predictable because Callie keeps making references to and having flashbacks about someone, but overall the book is a page turner.

Buy Starters from Amazon| Buy it from an indie bookstore



  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Thanks for the review, Mena. I have only started reading YA as an adult in the past year or two and quite sparingly at that. So I would have missed this one but for your post. It looks like something I’d be interested in, so thanks for bringing it to our attention. Putting it on my wish list now!


  • Reply
    Steve Weddle
    March 13, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Cool review. I get what you mean about the concept not making sense. Good points. Thanks.

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Excellent review, Mena! You’ve done a terrific job of explaining both what you liked about the story and also how the author could have improved. I haven’t read this one, but completely agree about needing to know what characters look like; I find it distracting when this isn’t explained! I also appreciate that you told us enough about the story but not too much–I like to know before I read when a book has a “cliffhanger” ending especially because sometimes I prefer to wait until the sequel is out. I look forward to reading your next review!

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Well done, Mena. Excellent review. I have to admit some of the YA books (in audio) my kids have hooked on to I’ve found really enthralling. Thanks.

  • Reply
    March 13, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Very insightful kid, PCN. Makes sense that she’s related to you.

    Freaky little story. Amazing to read what Mena picks up on.

    I enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy, so I’ll check this one out.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Well done, niece of Elyse!

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