Book Review: Beta by Rachel Cohn

betaTitle: Beta

Author: Rachel Cohn

Series: Annex #1

Publisher: Hyperion

Release Date: October 16th, 2012


Book Summary:

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 from 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 realize that beneath the island’s flawless exterior, there is an under­current of discontent among 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 her one chance at happi­ness 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.

The first in a dazzlingly original science fiction series from best-selling author Rachel Cohn, Beta is a haunting, unforgettable story of courage and love in a cor­rupted world. Praise for Beta: “A terrific premise that is equally well executed…Readers can only hope [the sequel] will be as thrilling as this series kickoff.”–Los Angles Times

What a fascinating concept! This was so different from other books I’ve read, even other YA Dystopian. I thought it would be hard to connect with Elysia because she’s supposed to be emotionless, but it quickly became clear that she has tons of emotions – and opinions – that she must keep well-hidden. She doesn’t understand why she has them, and finding out is difficult for her, but makes for an intriguing story.

The fact that Elysia is new, and doesn’t understand things outside of her programming was entertaining, such as when she is confused about what it means to “put out”, and blithely thinks to herself “I wonder where Greer puts the sex out”. Also, the fact that she kept calling it “the sex” throughout the book was kind of adorable and made me giggle.

The secondary characters were all well fleshed-out and I’ll be curious to see who makes a come-back. I’m especially excited to see Demetra, the poor soul who wanted to be a clone herself, since she was raised mainly by clone servants. Also interesting was Greer, a girl who spent a lot of time in the outside world, so had a nicely different perspective on the island. The setting for Beta was fantastic. This perfect island, where even inhaling the air makes you a little high, cut off from an outside world the reader is only given tantalizing hints about. It was really interesting to see that perfect layer peeled back to expose the ugliness that kept the island functioning.

The only real issue I had with the book was that it made very little sense to me that sex with clones was off limits. Come on, seriously? That would be #1 on many people’s lists, especially seeing as clones are culled from the most attractive specimens. The rationale for such a law was not really explained beyond “it’s wrong”, and while yes, under the book’s circumstances it would be (because the clones would have to be ordered to by their “masters”) it’s a lot less wrong than most of the other things that happen to the clones. Especially with this issue being a bit of a plot device, I would have liked to see it explained clearer. I will not detract points for that, however, since it may be addressed in future volumes and considering how awesome the book is overall, I shan’t nitpick.

I liked how the author explored so many aspects of the world she created. The clones are made from people who died, so what about the people who knew the original? How do they choose who to clone? What happens when a clone grows older and less attractive? Is cloning controversial? How do they get away with it? Do some clones “go bad”? The author doesn’t just sweep these issues under the rug, but addresses them in a way that deepens the narrative. I love that I have NO idea where this story is going in the next installment. So many possibilities.

Rating: 4.5 Stars – Highly Recommended

Content: Innuendo, implied sexual content. Moderate violence, not gratuitous and integral to the story.

Source: Purchased

Purchase book: IndieBound Barnes and Noble The Book Depository Amazon

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  1. I have been eyeing this book for so long. Maybe it’s time I nabbed a copy. Great review!

  2. I have been wanting to read this for a bit now!! Ahhh, I need to jump on it!

  3. Oh I’ve wanted to read Beta for so long. I have the ARC but never managed to get around to it, but I think I have to move it up on my tbr. Great review 🙂

    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books

  4. I think the idea that the main character has no personal experiences to draw from makes this a really appealing read to me! Thanks for the review!