Enders by Lissa Price
Series: Starters, #2
Published: January 7, 2014, Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Source: From publicist via Netgalley
Contains spoilers for Starters (my review)Goodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble
“I’m telling you, if there’s one thing I learned from this whole body bank mess, it’s that looks are overrated. Beauty isn’t about meeting some holo-star standard, it’s about being you. Because looks come and go. But nobody else can be you.”
Please ignore the terrible cover. It’s not indicative of the story in the slightest. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original cover for Starters either, but it still fit the story better than these redesigned covers. Oh, well. On to my review of the book itself.
After destroying Prime Destinations and becoming claimed Starters, Callie hopes that she, her little brother Tyler, and her friend Michael can finally live in relative security. But their hard-won peace is threatened by the Old Man who ran Prime Destinations. His business may have been destroyed, but he’s still very much alive and is unwilling to let Callie, the most powerfully altered donor, escape his grasp.
In order to become eligible as a donor for Prime Destinations (informally known as a Metal), Callie and other Starters were subjected to internal and external alterations. Besides being physically appealing, all the Starters had chips inserted into their heads, which would allow their bodies to be controlled by their renters. The chips had limits as to what the renters could do: most importantly, renters could not make their donors engage in anything violent. But Callie’s chip was altered by her renter Helena, and now anyone who controls Callie can not only force her to inflict violence, but she remains conscious as her body is outwardly controlled.
As Callie learns that the Old Man will do whatever it takes to have her within his grasp once more—including controlling and killing other Metals—she’s forced to make unlikely alliances and seek a way to safely remove the chips from all the Metals.
It’s been a while since I’ve read Starters. To be honest, I was worried that I wouldn’t remember too much of it. And there were times here and there where I did feel a bit lost, and not all the book’s jargon came back to me easily. I did remember the twist at the end, though, and that was the aspect I was most excited to see played out in Enders. Besides that, I thought the basics of the storyline are recapped decently well.
I do know that many niggling issues I had with Starters are addressed in the sequel. The battle for dominance between Enders and Starters is better explained. While I still do not completely buy the terrible treatment and abuse that a large percentage of the nation’s underage population has to endure, all became a bit clearer here. Fear appears to be the dominant emotion for both Starters and Enders: the fear of being no longer relevant, the fear of how to provide for oneself on a daily basis. And the conflict between the two generational groups is shown to be not quite as divisive as I’d been lead to believe in Starters.
Indeed, many issues that appeared to be presented in simpler, black-and-white terms in Starters are more thoroughly examined in this installment. Middles, as it turns out, are not completely eradicated, as some leading governmental members (and those with lots of money or fame) were able to obtain vaccinations for themselves. The dynamics between Middles and Enders, or Middles and Starters, are not really the focus of this book, but their continued existence does add a greater dash of reality to this story.
Identity is a core concept explored throughout this duology, and it’s done very well. In the dystopian world first introduced in Starters, Starters (or those under 20) and Enders (or those above 60) are first and foremost identified by their generation. Prestige, power, and wealth all hinge on whether one is an Ender, or whether one is “claimed” by (essentially a close relative) an Ender. As with Starters, I still found it extremely interesting that with the removal of the middle-aged adult population, it is the elderly who have taken power. Starters really have no intrinsic worth to this society, their value only determined through their relations.
The existence of Prime Destinations and Metals is proof not only of how screwed up Callie’s society has become, but how much many Starters are willing to risk in order to gain a semblance of power in their society once more. The money and beauty gained through being a donor are temporary, however, and never quite alter the balance of society.
Speaking of Metals, I do wish that their place within society was better addressed. As Callie and her new ally Hyden race to bring Metals to their safehouse, hidden away from the influence of the Old Man, Callie and readers are subjected to just how well Metals have been coping (or not). Physical alterations aside, it seems as though the majority of their lives have not been significantly improved. They’re still second-class citizens out of the two major divisions of people left alive. There’s a lot to be explored about identity, ageism (perhaps it’s more appropriate to refer to it as reverse-ageism here), and self-worth. I think Price has started to tease out some really compelling concepts here, but they’re not explored to the amount of depth I would have hoped.
The ending is fairly open-ended, but I kind of liked that. Price certainly includes a lot of twists in her book, and for the most part I quite enjoyed them. Some of them made the novel border on cliche, but plenty of others were impressively surprising. I liked the twists that led up to the conclusion, but my head was still reeling from some, and I can’t help but feel as though that made the conclusion a little less powerful for me than it should have been.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this duology. Callie is extra-special in some ways, but I do think she’s a well-crafted and likable character. I wish that Price had focused a bit more on Callie’s relationship with others and the implications and questions that come from a society fractured such as Callie’s is. As it is, this was still an engaging and fun read.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Disclaimer: I received this review copy from the publicist, but that in no way affected my opinion. The quote is from an advanced copy of the novel and is subject to change in the final edition.