Beta (Beta #1) Featured
Sci-Fi fans will enjoy this.
I wanted to love this but...
Beta is the first Rachel Cohn book I've read and I really enjoyed the way she writes. The story is well written with an interesting concept but I felt like most of the book dragged and didn't get really engaging until the last 1/4 and then it ends. Granted, it's a game changer at the end, which I'm sure was crafted in order to create anticipation for the next book but, still.
I had trouble connecting with Elysia's character and I'm not sure why. I was indifferent to her until near the end when everything seems to come at her all at once and by that point, I was left feeling frustrated and sad. I also had trouble keeping certain character's names straight because they were so similar and that was distracting.
I just don't know that this series will be for me but I know there are a lot of readers who will love it!
If You Like the Voice, Beta's Fun
Before I got to read this one, I saw a few non-flattering reviews roll in, so I was on my guard, prepared for another in a string of disappointing reads. Thankfully, I enjoyed Beta pretty much all the way through, although I am definitely immensely skeptical about where the series is heading.
Beta takes place on an island paradise, home to only the richest and most fashionable of people. These people are so rich that they have clones, programmed to be emotionless and get work done perfectly, to take care of them, because, honestly, human butlers and nannies are just so last season. The rest of the world is not so nice, and is very different from the one we know today. Details on that are somewhat limited in Beta, but I hope to learn more about the Water Wars and what the cities are like in later installments.
I do need to talk for a bit about the concept of the clones to serve this island. Honestly, I don't get it. They talked about why they needed them: because good labor is too difficult to find, since the island didn't have natives and travel to the island is exceedingly expensive. That's nice and all, but I'm FAIRLY CERTAIN that producing clones is about 80 billion times more expensive than that. Also, the whole process seems suspect to me. For one thing, the person being cloned is supposed to be dead, which makes me wonder where all of the hot, dead people are coming from. Another problem with I have with this is the whole business about how they separate out the soul from the body. Did I miss when we figured out where the soul is? Has a physical soul been located in the future?
Betas are not supposed to be able to feel or taste anything. They should be, essentially, like robots. Elysia, our heroine, is a beta, a test clone for the new teen line. Because she is gorgeous (stacked), she sells quickly and goes to serve as a companion in the home of a wealthy family. It quickly becomes apparent that Elysia is not what a clone should be, which I am thankful for, since her first person story would have been VERY boring were she actually the way clones are meant to be.
Thankfully, I did not find her narration boring at all. Cohn's writing often amused me and I really liked the rhythm of it. Basically, she used the beginning clone section for comedic value. Even early on, it's apparent that something is wrong with Elysia's programming because she is so incredibly curious. As such she asks lots of inappropriate questions. For additional reader amusement, she interprets things very literally, like wondering where a girl 'puts out the sex.' This humor was obvious, but I must admit I was still entertained.
Cohn makes an attempt at twists, and there are several in here. Most of them I saw coming from miles away. Pretty much as soon as a character was introduced, I would predict that x and y would happen to them and then a hundred pages or more later, it would. The twists at the end did get me, though, I will admit. Basically, there are enough surprises that she'll likely catch you off guard once or twice.
For most of the book, I was okay with the romance. Just okay. I don't especially care for either guy (yes, a love triangle, and one that I suspect I will come to loathe). Tahir sounds totally dreamy. Were I Elysia, I would be all over that one, because he sounds delicious. Besides, he's actually there, which helps. Still, I did not really experience any feels at their romance. Mostly, I just wanted her to enjoy herself, because why the hell not. The other boy has a history with her First, aka the girl she was cloned from, and she knows him from a brief memory. He holds no appeal for me. Still, the dynamics of the love triangle were interesting enough thus far.
Did you notice that I have mentioned THE END a couple of times as having been somewhat distinct from the rest of the novel for me? GOODNESS GRACIOUS, THE ENDING. I really wish that I could talk about this in detail with you guys, but I won't because spoilers. Here's what I can say. Things get darker, which I give Cohn props for. Something I thought was coming but kind of didn't think would happen because it usually doesn't in YA DID happen, and it was painful. That part of the end was good in a painful way.
THEN there's some things that I am just all kinds of not cool with, which sucks because I had such a pleasant reading experience up to that point, despite my nitpicking above. What it comes down to is that some trope-ish things happen all in a row and I am REALLY concerned about whether I will like the next book at all. If anyone has read this book, I would love to discuss!
So, for the review skimmers, I will say that I enjoyed reading Beta quite a bit, but I am not altogether sure how I feel about it. A lot will hinge on whether you like Cohn's writing and what happens in book two.
Beta surprised me a bit. I'd heard next to nothing about it, so I wasn't really expecting much, but I ended up really enjoying it. And don't underestimate the contents by the cover. It gets a little dark at times.
Some people may get a bit annoyed by Elysia's constant questions, but it felt natural to me. I mean, she wakes up knowing nothing besides what her info. chip tells her. I found it a bit amusing when she'd get hung up on phrases we use all the time, taking them literally. Even "whoa" surprises and confuses her.
I found it a bit difficult to get into at first. Everything was just so perfect and slightly boring, but in the end I think Cohn did a great job of transitioning from introduction to the world to problems in paradise. Elysia slowly starts questioning whether she wants serve these people and whether what she's feeling are truly emotions or not. I loved how Elysia slowly started gaining her own personality. I didn't even really notice when she switched over from clone thinking to her own thinking.
The setting was interesting. It's not overwhelmingly futuristic (not that it would bother me if it were) and it slowly leaks details about the world into the story. The story and characters more than make up for the fact that we see the island of Demesne and only hear about the rest of the world. I'd still like to learn more about Biome City, the dessert settlements, the flooded cities, and the space colonization.
I was really drawn into the last half of the story. Things start happening quickly and I didn't see some of those twists. I did, however, see Alexander twist from the start. That was okay, though. I feel it didn't detract much from my enjoyment of the story, though, and the twist in the end made up for it since it totally caught me off guard.
Ever wanted to live in paradise? Just bask in the sun, play all day, relax without the worry of any work whatsoever? Demesne offers just that to its human inhabitants...but not for the clone workers who serve the humans as slaves, taught from the moment they are created that they are soulless, devoid of feeling and emotion, only there to obey the humans. Elysia is one such clone, a Beta version of the new teen model; she is bought by one of the island's most important families to be a companion. She's beautiful, naive and curious about the world, probably a tad more curious than a emotionless, desire-less clone should be. Elysia begins to suspect she's not as perfect as everyone once hoped...she can taste (she adores chocolate!), she has feelings, she's even attracted to a boy. These are things that clones should never experience, but worst of all, she has visions from her First, the girl who had to die in order for Elysia to be created, of a boy her First must have loved. As Elysia comes to grips with the fact that she might be "defective," she learns to stand up for herself and not accept the life that has been prescribed to her. She's going to create chaos in paradise.
This book has some really super awesome parts, a few seemingly pointless sections and just a couple of muddled moments. Overall, the pacing is good: not too fast, not too slow. It was an enjoyable read, and I like that Beta deals with moral issues such as slavery, freedom and human rights. I loved the first 3/4ths of this book more than I loved the end. The end is decent, but the storyline seems to become confused and rushed toward the last fourth of the book. A new relationship is introduced, and it is very quick and sudden. The multiple twists at the end gave me a bit of a headrush but they also made me want to grab the next book, even though it won't come out until forever from now.
As for characters, I wasn't totally in love with either of Elysia's love interests, since one is rather distant and the other appears suddenly near the end. However, I did like Elysia as the protagonist of the story; she grows emotionally from a naive clone to a self-aware young woman who knows she deserves more than a life of servitude. Oh, and I want to know more about Astrid! She wasn't even in this book, really, except as just someone who everyone else referred to, but she sounded like a feisty, studious, deep character. I hope that she appears in the follow-up novels to this one.
Overall, Beta was a good book with a few plot issues, but it still kept my attention and left me wanting more!
Thank you very much, Disney-Hyperion and NetGalley.com, for letting me read the ARC galley for this book!
Beta breathes a breath of fresh air into the dystopia genre
Beta has such an awesome concept. I was drawn into Elysia's world and mind, wondering what would happen next, what she would feel that she wasn't supposed to and how her world would change.
I could connect with Elysia because she has the bursts of human emotion, taste, and memories, and her thought patterns really don't seem like they are automated or anything. I know that she refers to the chip alot and trying to process slang or terms that are unfamiliar, but I think that adds to the charm. It was a new experience though being inside the head of a clone, because you can go along and forget until the expectations that are on her sneak up on you and throw a wrench into things. She isn't supposed to feel, to taste, or to remember things that she does, because she is a clone, and her "first" the teen that died, the soul "removed" and then programmed with computer chips to act in response to emotions, but be immune to the happy and relaxing effect the island has.
Rachel Cohn writes with such vivid imagery it feels like I was there, looking at the constructed paradise with a purple hue. I wish that I could breathe in some of that oxygen to see what it means to be on such an island, but then as I see the turmoil under the surface I wonder, would it be worth it even just for a visit.
The story is definitely layered, with Elysia's story, the dynamics between the Governer and "Mother" as well as Liesel and Ivan the brother and sister she's adopted to. And then I didn't know what to think when Tahir came on the scene, but I loved every minute of it. From
I was constantly on the edge of my seat wondering what twist would come next, and which character would surprise me in ways I never saw coming.
This is a fast paced, yet dark and chilling story about what it means to be human, the constraints of that humanity and what can happen when the world goes into chaos. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and can't wait to find out what happens next in Elysia's story.
Bottom Line: Beta breathes a breath of fresh air into the dystopia genre with this unique main character that I felt for and want so much more of.