Review: Beta by Rachel Cohn
Summary From Goodreads:
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.
I received an ARC of Beta courtesy of the amazing people over at ARCycling in exchange for an honest review.
I am reviewing this IMMEDIATELY after finishing it because I want my emotions to be as fresh as possible. I breezed through Beta just about as fast as I ever have any other book. I was loving just about every aspect of it and was thinking this was going to be four, perhaps even a five Frodo review no problem. Then the ending happened and I kind of lost it on Twitter.
WHY?! The book is fantastic and then at the ending you just aaaaaaaaaah. >.<
— Frodo (@1FantasyFanatic) July 9, 2013
I literally just had a book that 99% of the way would have been 5 stars and because of the ending might be a 3 now. ARGH.
— Frodo (@1FantasyFanatic) July 9, 2013
So, ya, I was a little frustrated to say the least. There were twists and some plot threads dropped that were brand new and clearly were designed to get the reader to want to find out more in book 2 in the series (Which weren’t needed by the way, the desire was already there from the rest of the book, aaaaaah) but that wasn’t the issue I had. No, the main character, Elysia, who had stayed true to her convictions throughout the book and had been such a fantastic example of dedication to the people she cares about just throws it all away at the end. I cannot go into further detail without spoiling the book but my goodness was that disheartening. Why would you take such a great model of character and toss it aside like it was nothing?! I don’t get it. I will again say this is an ARC of Beta that I read, but I doubt that they would have made that substantial a change between the ARC and the finished version. Ugh.
Now, the rest of the book. The writing? Excellent! The pacing was smooth, the flow was wonderful with action interspersed with revelations by Elysia about the world around her. The dialogue is some of the best I’ve ever read, Cohn brought the conversations to life and it was remarkable how smooth the transitions were from one character speaking to the next. Also? Beta was HILARIOUS! It wasn’t over the top funny that you find in some books, not that I’m knocking that approach, but little jokes here and there that had me in fits. Wonderful.
Let me again say how frustrated I was with Elysia’s decisions at the end of the book because prior to that I loved everything about her character. She was funny in an awkward way that fit perfectly with her beta-clone role. The way she observed the role in a mixture of robotic analysis and descriptions slowly mixing with human revelations about both herself and the people around her was perfect. As a reader you get to learn about who Elysia is right along with her as she discovers herself, I love that approach and it did make me feel connected with her on a deeper level which I loved. Again, she stuck with her convictions throughout almost the entire book, she was devoted to the people that truly cared about her and refused to waiver even when the opportunities she had would have swayed the average person, or perhaps clone. Loved her.
The romance in Beta was great. No real triangles, no insta-love, though I won’t deny there being some instant attractions going on, which is perfectly normal considering the characters are teenagers. The romantic interest, Tahir, is a fascinating character. His emotions change like the tide, he is devoted and passionate one minute and distant the next. In some cases this would be irritating, but with Tahir it is just intriguing. You want to know what is going on in his head, and Elysia is the only one who seems to be capable of finding out just what Tahir is all about. They mesh, they are sweet, and their is romantic scenes but they trend more toward the emotional bonding rather than too much of the physical which is great to see considering their ages. I rooted for them all the way.
Oh, and the world Cohn created? Detailed, rich, complex, the list goes on. A place that seems like a paradise from first glance but in reality is just as flawed as any society is not an original concept by any means, but it was done so well that I didn’t mind. The history of the Island, Demesne, was completely believable and I could definitely see how humans could have decided this was the right course of action, especially those among the wealthy. The brand of servitude used is intended to illicit anger from the reader in varying degrees along the course of the book because of how we are still trying to achieve freedom in the world today. The idea of any human of any type, clone or not, being beneath another human is something we strive to remove completely, and Beta showcases how the powers that be, in a certain scenario, might continue to utilize that mindset to the fullest extent to serve their purposes. The imagery through Elysia’s eyes is so detailed that Demesne comes to life in an instant, every aspect easy to see in the mind’s eye, just excellent.
So did I enjoy Beta? Absolutely. Did the ending frustrate me beyond belief and tarnish my feelings toward the book? You bet. It’s like I was taught every facet of a language and at the end of my learning process I was told that half the words or letters were meaningless. The result is a question. How much do I let 1% of the book affect how much I loved the other 99%? A decent amount, but I refuse to let a decision I’m not thrilled with alter how great the book was prior to it. The ending keeps it from being a five but a four works just fine for me. I recommend the book and just say that I hope book two will resolve some of the issues that the end presented and if Elysia can recapture that conviction and great sense of who she is and what she believes I bet this series will become a favorite of mine. Thanks as always for reading!
Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #105/200