I don’t usually read Young Adult fiction, aside from Harry Potter and The Hunger Games (okay, maybe I do read it more than I think). However, at ThrillerFest this book jumped out and grabbed me. Literally, the minute I walked through the door of the bookstore, it spoke to me. I guess it’s true, I do judge a book by the cover.
And this cover is fabulous!
Really, the image here does not do it justice. The background is embossed metallic silver. The whole thing is glossy, and that blue eye rams home the message “buy me.” At least, it did to me.
And then I read the back cover:
A girl with a terrifying choice.
Her parents? Dead.
Her brother? Sick.
Her way out? Get paid to be somebody else.
Who can she trust? No one.
This is a dystopian story along the lines of The Hunger Games. It’s set in our own future, after a biological war has wiped out a generation of people, leaving only old people and children. Society by this point has managed to prolong life so that most people live 200 years or more. What happens when you do that? Older people need to work. So they outlaw work for anyone under 19. What happens when there are suddenly no parents? There’s a lot of starving children around, since they can’t work to support themselves.
And thus an industry is born. The really old people, “Enders”, would love to have a younger body. The really young people, “Starters”, would love to have money for things like food, shelter, water. So the younger ones agree to “rent” out their bodies to the older ones. Yes, that’s right. If you’re old, you can pay to live inside a young person’s body.
That’s creepy enough right there, but it gets worse. What if the person who rents your body does it so they can have the strength and ability to murder someone? That’s exactly what happens to Callie.
I loved the protagonist Callie. Above all else, she’s dedicated to keeping her brother safe. She’ll rent her body out to do it, despite the deep fear she feels for the place and for older people in general. When she finds out her renter wants to kill someone, she does everything she can to stop it. Until…well, read the story.
I liked how politics is blended in but not obtrusive, and the world building is great. I could see this society. I could see how laws would have been passed to protect the older people. I could see it happening today, in fact. And biological warfare is a scary notion that’s always been possible. It’s fascinating to see these things combined, and the outcome and effect on the people who remain.
First Line: “Enders gave me the creeps. The doorman flashed a practiced smile as he let me into the body bank. He wasn’t that old, maybe 110, but he still made me shudder. Like most Enders, he sported silver hair, some phony badge of honor of his age. Inside, the ultramodern space with its high ceilings dwarfed me. I walked through the lobby as if gliding through a dream, my feet barely touching the marble floor.”
Do you see why I couldn’t pass this up? I couldn’t put it down, either. The phrase “body bank” was enough to hook me. This is a fast, engrossing read which I believe is meant to be part of a series. It’s well written, paced well, and morbidly fascinating. They say if you like The Hunger Games, you’ll love this. I say if you didn’t like The Hunger Games, you’ll love this too. I think this story leaves more hope for the future, as well as the present.
The book trailer is pretty cool too:
I got the chance to meet this author at ThrillerFest. She said the publisher was thinking about changing the cover because it doesn’t appeal to boys as much as girls. I think it’s a mistake to try to appeal to both. That leads to something generic that appeals to nobody. This cover is why I picked up the book in the first place. Yes, I’m a girl, but it’s more than that. So what do you think? Would you have picked up this book for the cover alone?
Would your son/husband?