Booktalk: Beta by Rachel Cohn

When I went on a recent reading spree so that I could come up with some candidates for my favorite teen books of 2012, Beta stood out for several reasons.  First, it stood out because it was a dystopian fiction novel, and Lord knows I’m a fan of dystopian fiction.  But Beta also stood out because I saw that it was written by Rachel Cohn, who had already earned my admiration with realistic fiction books like Gingerbread.  No, seriously, if you haven’t read Gingerbread yet and want a book with a great protagonist that puts the “real” in realistic fiction, go read it now!

So even though I didn’t know if Rachel Cohn could pull off a science fiction novel, the fact that I knew she was great with realistic fiction made me want to read this book.  And I was richly rewarded when I did!  By the way, the ending of this book was such a surprising cliffhanger that I imagine that both teens and adults who read this book will be clamoring to get their hands on the next book in the series as soon as it’s written.


Elysia is sixteen years old, and she was born that way.  When she woke up in the lab, she saw a woman standing there and asked if she was Elysia’s mother.  The woman seemed angry.  She said she was Elysia’s creator, not her mother.  You see, Elysia is a clone, and a very special one at that.  Adult clones have been around for years, but Elysia is one of the first teenage clones.  The scientists call the teenage clones Betas because they’re not sure if the science is perfected yet.  They’re a little worried about the effect of teenage hormones, and they think that the teen clones might not be stable yet.  That being said, Elysia appears to be a perfect specimen.  She’s beautiful, she’s smart … well, the chip in her brain is smart, anyway.  And most importantly, she’s polite.  When a rich woman buys Elysia to be her companion, Elysia finally gets to see more of the world than just the lab and the store where she was bought.  Elysia starts learning about the world and about herself.  Elysia knows that the real girl that she was cloned from is dead, because a clone can only be created after a person’s soul is extracted.  But Elysia doesn’t know who that person was.  Did she have a lot of friends?  What was her name?  How did she die?  Does anyone miss her?  Clones are supposed to be content to serve.  They’re not supposed to ask questions.  But Elysia can’t help but wonder about the real girl who looked just like her.

And then one day Elysia goes swimming, and when she dives underwater she suddenly sees a strange young man in the water with her.  He speaks to her and then, suddenly, he’s gone.  Elysia has never seen this man before … and yet she knows him.  She knows from the look in his eyes and the tone of his voice that this is the man who loved the girl who died so that Elysia could be created.

Elysia just had a flashback from a dead girl.  That DEFINITELY wasn’t supposed to happen.

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