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Beta by Rachel Cohn
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I have to admit, I only wanted to read this book because I recently, finally, read Dash and Lily's Book of Dares...in which Ms. Cohn is a co-writer. I usually stay away from most science fiction/dystopian YA novels just because they are usually worse than I expect. I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I didn't hate it but it won't be my favorite book.

I don't know if anyone else saw a moderately decent movie called 'The Island' with Scarlett Johannssen and Ewan McGregor, this book reminded of me a younger version of that movie. It was very hard for me to look past that while reading, I did try thought. Elysia is a good character but I found it difficult to relate to her.

The idea for this book is excellent, I will say that above all else, I just think it lacked a little in character believability. I also didn't enjoy Tariq's character, their "relationship" just never felt right. I think Ms. Cohn makes lofty goals with this book and lives up to most of them but not quite all. I will check out the next book in the series to make my final decision on it. ( )
  rosetyper9 | Nov 12, 2015 |
3.5 stars. The writing seemed a little stiff but it seemed to work for the most part because of the nature of the story. It got kind of violent towards the end so it's not for those who don't handle violence well or don't want to read about it. ( )
  Mirandalg14 | Aug 18, 2014 |
I love science fiction, so I am all about suspending my disbelief. But the author has to help, and frankly, the premise here demands a whole lot more world-building than it got. It has been pointed out elsewhere in the reviews that the whole idea of one human dying to enable the creation of one clone is nonsensical. I mean, why bother? Why not keep the original person and do a brain wipe and a lobotomy? Would there be legal issues in regard to their humanity? Well, yes, but creatures made out of human flesh walking around would surely raise the same issues. The whole point of cloning is that you just need a little bitty bit of person to make a new one.

And the bandying about of the concept of souls - to the point where we find out that all the clones' original Firsts' souls are stashed in little bottles somewhere - doesn't seem to make much sense. If the island or mainland society were theocratic or something, the idea of a soul might mean something, but everyone there seems totally secular and unabashedly inclined to tinkering with the environment and the genome, and I felt like the soul as a tangible entity was pointlessly anachronistic.

Elysia's clonal arc seems jumpy, uneven, and inconsistent to the point where I kept getting bounced right out of the narrative. The various romantic and/or sexual developments felt clunky and creepy.

I'm honestly sorry to be so negative. It's just that I think there was a good story here, good enough that I am disappointed that the result wasn't better. ( )
1 vote Magatha | Aug 28, 2013 |
Beta takes place in a world where humans have finally succeeded in creating perfection however, other humans are subjugated clones whose only purpose in life is serve others. Elysia is the main character born as an ideal teen begins to exhibit behaviors that she is not supposed to since she is perfect. There are some scenes of violence that could be uncomfortable for younger teens. I do not recommend the book for teens younger than 14. I would also suggest reading the book Origin by Jessica Khoury first if interested in S/F stories about Gen-Mod and perfection. It is a better written book and despite scenes of violence, Origin is a read alike that is suitable for readers 12 and up. ( )
  SparklePonies | Apr 30, 2013 |
Originally reviewed on A Reader of Fictions.

Before I got to read this one, I saw a few non-flattering reviews roll in, so I was on my guard, prepared for another in a string of disappointing reads. Thankfully, I enjoyed Beta pretty much all the way through, although I am definitely immensely skeptical about where the series is heading.

Beta takes place on an island paradise, home to only the richest and most fashionable of people. These people are so rich that they have clones, programmed to be emotionless and get work done perfectly, to take care of them, because, honestly, human butlers and nannies are just so last season. The rest of the world is not so nice, and is very different from the one we know today. Details on that are somewhat limited in Beta, but I hope to learn more about the Water Wars and what the cities are like in later installments.

I do need to talk for a bit about the concept of the clones to serve this island. Honestly, I don't get it. They talked about why they needed them: because good labor is too difficult to find, since the island didn't have natives and travel to the island is exceedingly expensive. That's nice and all, but I'm FAIRLY CERTAIN that producing clones is about 80 billion times more expensive than that. Also, the whole process seems suspect to me. For one thing, the person being cloned is supposed to be dead, which makes me wonder where all of the hot, dead people are coming from. Another problem with I have with this is the whole business about how they separate out the soul from the body. Did I miss when we figured out where the soul is? Has a physical soul been located in the future?

Betas are not supposed to be able to feel or taste anything. They should be, essentially, like robots. Elysia, our heroine, is a beta, a test clone for the new teen line. Because she is gorgeous (stacked), she sells quickly and goes to serve as a companion in the home of a wealthy family. It quickly becomes apparent that Elysia is not what a clone should be, which I am thankful for, since her first person story would have been VERY boring were she actually the way clones are meant to be.

Thankfully, I did not find her narration boring at all. Cohn's writing often amused me and I really liked the rhythm of it. Basically, she used the beginning clone section for comedic value. Even early on, it's apparent that something is wrong with Elysia's programming because she is so incredibly curious. As such she asks lots of inappropriate questions. For additional reader amusement, she interprets things very literally, like wondering where a girl 'puts out the sex.' This humor was obvious, but I must admit I was still entertained.

Cohn makes an attempt at twists, and there are several in here. Most of them I saw coming from miles away. Pretty much as soon as a character was introduced, I would predict that x and y would happen to them and then a hundred pages or more later, it would. The twists at the end did get me, though, I will admit. Basically, there are enough surprises that she'll likely catch you off guard once or twice.

For most of the book, I was okay with the romance. Just okay. I don't especially care for either guy (yes, a love triangle, and one that I suspect I will come to loathe). Tahir sounds totally dreamy. Were I Elysia, I would be all over that one, because he sounds delicious. Besides, he's actually there, which helps. Still, I did not really experience any feels at their romance. Mostly, I just wanted her to enjoy herself, because why the hell not. The other boy has a history with her First, aka the girl she was cloned from, and she knows him from a brief memory. He holds no appeal for me. Still, the dynamics of the love triangle were interesting enough thus far.

Did you notice that I have mentioned THE END a couple of times as having been somewhat distinct from the rest of the novel for me? GOODNESS GRACIOUS, THE ENDING. I really wish that I could talk about this in detail with you guys, but I won't because spoilers. Here's what I can say. Things get darker, which I give Cohn props for. Something I thought was coming but kind of didn't think would happen because it usually doesn't in YA DID happen, and it was painful. That part of the end was good in a painful way.

THEN there's some things that I am just all kinds of not cool with, which sucks because I had such a pleasant reading experience up to that point, despite my nitpicking above. What it comes down to is that some trope-ish things happen all in a row and I am REALLY concerned about whether I will like the next book at all. If anyone has read this book, I would love to discuss!

So, for the review skimmers, I will say that I enjoyed reading Beta quite a bit, but I am not altogether sure how I feel about it. A lot will hinge on whether you like Cohn's writing and what happens in book two. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
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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.

[retrieved from www.loc.gov (Library of Congress) 1/12/2013]
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"On a futuristic island paradise where humans are served by enslaved clones, a sixteen-year-old clone named Elysia seeks her own freedom"--

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