October 2012, Hyperion
331 pages, ARC version - sent from Dana Square
Good Reads + Amazon
"Elysia is 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 a teenage clone. She was replicated form another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist. 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 induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island's workers -- soulless clones like Elysia -- are immune to.
At first, Elysia's life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to the realize that beneath the island's flawless exterior, there is an under-current of discontent among Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care -- so why are overpowering sensations cloud-ing 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 her one chance at happi-ness is ripped away 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."
Overall, I enjoyed Beta. I knew next to nothing about the plot save for it being a new sci-fi story that a blogging friend raved about and for the most part, it was entertaining. But to be honest with you, the main character - Elysia - ruined it for me. I think that Beta (book #1 of the Annex series) was an okay start to a potentially amazing series... and I'm sure the series could be amazing... if Rachel Cohn is able to figure out what the heck she is doing with Elysia's character.
The world building in Beta is incredible. The story takes place on a futuristic version of our world that has been rebuilt after a devastating period called the Water Wars, and the action is centered around the inhabitants of a small man-made paradise island named Demesne. Demesne is supposed to embody perfection - the ultimate getaway. The ocean waters surrounding the island have restorative and healing properties (think: Fountain of Youth), the oxygen is filtered and chemically treated to induce an euphoric state in all humans who breathe its air, and the island thrives off of slave-labor so that no vacationer or resident needs to lift a finger.
Yeah, you heard that correctly. Humans have perfected the art of cloning - that is, taking the body of a recently deceased person, cloning his/her DNA to make a perfect replication, and "tweaking" the clone by removing his/her soul to remove any chance of human emotion or disobedience. Enter our heroine: Elysia.
Elysia was such an inconsistent character that it often felt like I was reading about several different girls. She jumped from being a robotic clone to an overly emotional teenager to a warrior princess at the drop of a hat. And, though the story was about Elysia discovering herself and what not, the personality switches were a little too much. I would love to give you examples to back up my argument .. but I'm trying to keep this review as spoiler free as possible.
I am very interested to see where Rachel Cohn takes the series... but only because I'm curious about what happens with the world. Beta left off with some massive cliff hangers and plot twists (I literally said, "What the h...." out loud) - some made me cringe/roll my eyes because they were so outlandish and unbelievable while others have intrigued me enough to pursue the next book in the series. As you can probably gather, I am really torn on how I feel about this book.
I do need to throw out a word of caution - Beta is extremely dark. If you are a sensitive/young reader, please know that Beta has drugs, murder, rape and sexually explicit scenes.
Have you read Beta? What did you think and will you continue on with the series?