By Rachel Cohn
Available now from Hyperion
Review copy courtesy of Krystal of Live to Read
Elysia is a clone. A teenage Beta, to be exact. One of the first of her kind and thus likely to have several bugs. But unlike the other teenage Beta, she's absolutely gorgeous. Thus, she gets taken into a household fast and becomes a companion, replacing a daughter away at college.
Thus begins Rachel Cohn's foray into science fiction. Cohn might be known for her (masterful) contemporaries, but BETA doesn't read like she's stretching out of her comfort zone. Cohn feels familiar with science fiction and the questions raised by the big cloning books like HOUSE OF THE RED SCORPION and NEVER LET ME GO. Her futuristic world seems probable, if unsustainable.
I loved how the world expanded as Elysia experienced the world and became more curious and rebellious. When she first wakes, she doesn't know much aside from what the computer chip in her head tells her. But she's good at observing and events soon make her realize that life as a clone is even more nasty, brutish, and short than life as a human. And no, that does not endear her to the rich people who populate their island with clones so that they don't have to interact with paid servants.
This also means that the dark side of life on Demesnse, the island, gets revealed at a nice pace. Readers will catch on to some nasty implications before Elysia, but it gets worse. (It, in fact, reaches a scene that I feel was unnecessary, but I may be alone in that.) But this is not to say BETA is all secret clone rebellion and mad science all the time.
There is, of course, a romance plot as well. Elysia has some of the memories of the girl whose organs were harvested to create her, and she feels for Z's boyfriend. She also meets a boy on the island who doesn't fit in so well since his almost-fatal accident and falls for him pretty quickly. Cohn does know how to write a good romance. The sparks flying are crazy bright.
I like the world and characters Cohn created in BETA. The plot felt a little bare bones, but there's some nice set up for the other three books in the series. I, for one, can't wait to see what happens next. Believe me, I did not see that ending coming.