Author: Rachel Cohn
Series: Beta (#1)
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
How Received: BookExpo America
Release Date: 16 October 2012
In a world constructed to absolute perfection, imperfection is difficult to understand—and impossible to hide.
Elysia is a clone, created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen year old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of teenaged clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to be created.
Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air there induces a strange, euphoric high that only the island's workers—soulless clones like Elysia—are immune to.
At first, Elysia's new life on this island paradise is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, the most privileged people in the world who should want for nothing, yearn. And, she comes to realize that beneath its flawless exterior, there is an undercurrent of discontent amongst Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care—so why are overpowering sensations clouding Elysia's mind?
If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When Elysia's one chance at happiness is ripped away from her with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she's always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.
The cover of this one is pretty and pink, drawing me in, but making me unsure of the maturity level of the subject material. I was pleasantly surprised at the complexity of plot and emotion in this dystopian story.
The novel features Elysia, a 16 year old girl who is a genetically engineered clone. Clones are devoid of souls and therefore are supposed to feel nothing other than the wish to do their job and fulfill their only purpose: making the elite (disgustingly wealthy) humans on the scientifically manufactured island paradise of Demesne happy. Elysia is set apart by the fact that she is a Beta: a test version. Teen clones have not been perfected yet, and as such those that have been produced are a bit of an oddity and a risk.
At first Elysia does not feel any different. She is simply there to serve the family that purchases her. But things soon begin to change and she experiences things that a clone should not be able to experience: taste, happiness, fear, hatred, hope, and love. Perhaps most worrying are memories from her First, the human girl who had to die in order for Elysia to be created.
The world in which Beta is set is far into the future of our world. The landscape has been dramatically altered due to global warming and new social orders have arisen. However, the one thing that has remained the same is human nature. In a way, this book reminds me of The Hunger Games. In both, the world itself is physically different, but the way that people act and react is not changed from the way people do today. In both stories, elite humans treat others with complete disregard for their basic rights (i.e. the clones and the Tributes of the Hunger Games). They are denied basic life choices and are terminated without the blink of an eye. Most importantly, both of these groups of people turn out to be a real problem for those who mistreat them.
Just like most dystopians, a real plus side to Beta is the fact that it makes you think. What would you do if you were a clone like Elysia? What if you were a human whose family owned clones? Is cloning (a science that is more advanced today than many people realize) ethical? Should it be encouraged if Elysia’s world is the end result? The clones are treated solely as property; although they are mostly willing enough to serve, does this constitute slavery? Beta is really a bit of a political/social commentary woven into the fabric of an entrancing story. Of course there is also a bit of romance here and there, just to spice things up a bit!
It took me a while to get into this one, probably because the fantastical setting created by Demesne is a little hard to relate to. Once the plot got going though, I was hard pressed to put it down. Throughout the book, I was surprised several times at the direction that the story took. I wasn’t expecting it to be so clever, but it kept me reading eagerly. The end is quite a cliff-hanger as well, and I’m glad that Beta is to be the first of a series.
You might like it...: I recommend this novel to fans of The Hunger Games and other dystopians. It is an intriguing and thought provoking read definitely worth checking out!
Beta is currently scheduled to be released in October 2012.
Julia is Nicole's rooommate and middle grade reviewer for WORD. She likes costuming. Check out her Tumblr at Adventures in Nerdland. You can find the rest of her posts on WORD by clicking here.