Starters by Lissa Price
Sometime in the future, mankind has discovered a way to extend life, allowing many to live to almost 200. Because the Enders (as they are called) live longer they are vying for jobs and positions and therefore anyone under the age of 20 (called Starters) are not allowed to work. This would have been fine if war had not struck and a biological weapon wiped out all those between the ages of 20 to 60, leaving kids without living grandparents or relatives to fend for themselves. Those not claimed can be locked up in institutions that make workhouses of old look like playgrounds. Enter Prime Destinations, a business that allows Enders to rent the bodies of teens for a day, a week, or a month, and allows them to be young once more. Desperate for money, Callie signs up, but when the chip implanted in her head malfunctions, Callie is thrown into a world of intrigue and danger that even a street hardened girl like her may be too difficult to handle.
This post-apocalyptic thriller was non-stop can't-put-it-down action that sucked me in from the very beginning. Callie is a normal girl, living is completely abnormal circumstances, and her world is both horrifying and fascinating. At first I wondered how adults could be so terribly cruel and uncaring about the unclaimed minors, but after having just read a book about Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London, I had to remind myself that even in a so-called civilized world, there can be uncaring and unfeeling people. I think that the problem was not that it was so improbable, but that I wished it wasn't. But there is hope, for there are grandparents and nice adults who do care and who do suspect the evil that is Prime Destinations.
The bad guy in this story is also sufficiently creepy. Wearing a mask that constantly shifts from one grotesque image to another, the "Old Man" is goosebump inducing and not to give anything away, but he ups the creepy level to 10 by the end. Amidst the action are wonderfully tender moments between Callie and her brother, her friend Michael, and her love interest Blake. The romance scenes were well-handled and never slowed down the pacing of the story.
Clearly, the publisher and author intend this to be a series, but I was pleasantly happy that the author wrapped it up in a way that made me happy but left me with more questions. This is the perfect book for Hunger Games lovers and may even become as big as Hunger Games with the right word of mouth.