Review: Beta

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: BetaBeta by Rachel Cohn
Series: Annex #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 16, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 331
Format: ARC
Source: BEA

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.

First Sentence: “It’s me she wants to purchase.”

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.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Does chocolate compel ataraxia?’ I ask the family.
‘Darling,’ says Mother, cutting a piece of her soufflé and placinng it on my plate. ‘It’s the antithesis of meh.’
‘What is meh?‘ I ask.
She shrugs. ‘Indifference. Chocolate is the opposite. It’s the very essence of happiness.'”

16 responses to “Review: Beta”

  1. Hah! I actually have a physical ARC of this on my shelf, because Lenore kindly sent it to me. I’ve been looking at the pink cover for days in awe (no kidding). I’m not really reading your review; I guess from the rating it didn’t really blow you away. The chocolate quote is good, though 🙂

  2. I look forward to Beta, despite what look to be a few weaknesses. Like, I full expect to not get the whole Clone thing, as I am not a science person at all and to be kind of annoyed at the love triangle stuff. But the bit you say about Elysia’s voice intrigues me. I love a character with a strong voice and that can sometimes outweigh the drawbacks.

    • Christina says:

      You should look forward to it. I still thought it was an enjoyable read. I’ll be curious to see what you think of it, though, because this is one I want to discuss!

  3. Carla says:

    This seems like an interesting book and I have to confess I’m curious now. I want to know what happens at the end. 🙂

  4. Adriana says:

    Really hot dead people???

    Sounds good but I don’t get how they would allow a girl to die to become a clone? Was she dying or something?

    I really want to read this. The love triangle doesn’t sound so promising but that’s not why I want to read it. Cloning and her personality sound like an interesting read.

    • Christina says:

      Yup. Well, I guess some of them could be dying by accident. I’m personally expecting to find out that there’s some more nefarious means.

      Awesome. Yeah, the love triangle wasn’t the worst I’ve ever read, but I could have done without it.

  5. I have this one to read and I was kind of dreading it because of all the negative reviews I have been seeing. But you’re description gets me excited to read it, it sounds really good and I love that it’s comedic at times. Thanks for brightening my outlook on this one!

    • Christina says:

      I know we don’t have identical taste, but I hope that you agree with me more on this one. Also, I hope you read it soon so we can discuss! A lot is going to hinge on whether you like the voice of the MC.

  6. I wish I could get an ARC. I only get eARCs but I hate reading in front of the computer so I usually don’t read the.

    This one has been on my wishlist for a long time. Need to check it out when it gets out.

  7. Kayla Beck says:

    Say what you will about me, but the cover turns me off so much that I probably won’t be able to read it. I mean, I can barely read the reviews. I *hate* the cover that much. I can’t even read the summary all the way through!

    Okay, maybe I’m a little more intrigued after skimming your review, but I’ll need a cover redesign.

    • Christina says:

      Wow. Really? The pastel purple I’m guessing? Too bad. There are some covers I feel like that about. I’m glad it sounds like Blessed is awful, because the cover makes me want to punch things.

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