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Beta Hardcover – October 16, 2012


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Product Details

  • Series: Beta (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423157192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423157199
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #442,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

On the luxurious island of Demesne, there are beautiful, emotionless clones for everything-cleaning, companionship, factory work-all created from Firsts who had to die in order for them to exist. Elysia is a beta, part of a test line of cloned teenagers (previously assumed to be too unstable for cloning), and she's bought by the Governor's wife to be a surrogate daughter (a role with plenty of creepy Stepford overtones). Through her new siblings and fellow clones, she starts to learn about the wider world and her place in it-and also begins to develop actual feelings and even memories of her First. Meanwhile, she gets to know gorgeous surfer Tahir and comes to realize that he, too, is a clone, illegally created by his parents when First Tahir died a year earlier. Cohn introduces readers to a world brimming with excess, hypocrisy, and chilling expediencies through Elysia's blinkered eyes, revealing layer after new layer of horror as Elysia probes ever-deeper into the mystery of her existence. The time-honored sci-fi trope of a manufactured being striving to become more human is powerfully reimagined here, and Elysia's literalism as she navigates this disturbingly familiar future underscores her innocence while adding an edge of humor to the social critique. The meditations on bioethics and the nature of humanity make this a strong complement to Mandanna's recent The Lost Girl (BCCB 9/12) or Farmer's stellar The House of the Scorpion (BCCB 11/02). Readers will warm to the complex characters and haunting world-building, and they'll eagerly await the next volume in Cohn's proposed series. CG—BCCB

3Q 4P J S Beta chronicles the emergence of Elysia, a Beta clone born in a laboratory on a high-end, bioengineered resort island called Demesne. Elysia is special not only for her beauty, but also for her age. She is one of the first teenagers cloned from a First, the human who had to die for her to exist. While her new clone life seems to be idyllic, after a wealthy family purchases her to be their servant, Elysia soon realizes that it is not enough. This simple act of desire is a terrifying one, as it means that she is not normal and may, in fact, be a dangerous Defect: a clone who can think and feel for herself. This is a dangerous secret because clones who rage and resist and love are tortured until their last breath. For Elysia, it is not a question of when she will be exposed, but whether she will fight for her life when she is. A compelling and fast-paced read, the novel offers well-developed characters and a fresh spin on a favorite science-fiction plot. Concerning, however, is the treatment of rape and teenage pregnancy in the final chapters. Elysia, pregnant by rape at sixteen, is offered no other option than to keep the child and be the mate of a man who, while she does not love him, is willing to care for them both. These issues deserve more than a handful of pages, a didactic resolution, and a distracting plot twist.-Courtney Huse Wika.—VOYA

In this kickoff to a planned four-book series, Elysia is a beautiful teenage clone bought as a companion to a wealthy family living on the exclusive island of Demesne on an Earth that is recovering from ecological disaster and global warfare. Though Elysia initially believes she has no free will, she discovers a taste for human foods like macaroni and cheese and chocolate-and, more importantly, begins to feel emotions like attraction, worry, and rage. She also has mysterious memories of the human girl from whom she was cloned, but keeps her discoveries secret, for fear of being marked a Defect. Cohn (coauthor of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) describes Elysia's luxurious world completely and persuasively, hinting that social justice themes may escalate in subsequent books; Elysia's evolution from robotic to real is similarly believable, as is her increasing desire for freedom. However, characters' widespread use of 21st-century slang and idioms distracts from the futuristic setting, and readers may be overwhelmed by the dizzying acceleration of events and revelations in the final chapters, which pave the way for the next installment.—PW

For the super-rich, the good life doesn't get much better than the lush island haven of Demesne. Its bioengineered ocean "ripples in patented violet crests" and melts off those unwanted pounds with a single dip. The oxygen-enriched air makes breathing a luxurious pleasure, "like having warm honey trickling sweetly down your throat." And to top it all off, there's a staff of human clones to cater to every need. What's not to like? Even Elysia, a new, experimental teenage clone, thinks she's in paradise-at first. Purchased as a surrogate daughter for the governor's wife, Elysia lives a privileged life, eating with the family, swimming in their pool, hanging out with their eighteen-year-old son and his friends. But as she navigates her way through life as a teenager and a clone, Elysia mulls over why words like insurrection aren't in her language database. She also worries she may be a Defect when she discovers that, unlike other clones, she has a sense of taste and-even more troubling-memories. From page one, Cohn's sci-fi coming-of-age story is riveting, and the sense of place she's crafted is remarkably potent. Her writing, however, can be uneven; Elysia, at various times, comes across as corny, melodramatic, and stilted. Most readers, though, won't mind, and after the cliffhanger ending they'll be counting the days until Beta's sequel arrives. tanya d. auger—Horn Book

Gr 9 Up In the aftermath of global environmental shifts and a series of devastating Water Wars, a handful of the wealthiest people retreats to an exclusive island paradise where everything from the surrounding waters to the air quality is controlled. In Demense, soulless human clones replicated from the recently deceased serve the elite. Though told that they do not feel and despite being programmed to serve via imbedded data chips, the clones, inevitably, do experience feelings and rebel. Elysia is the first teenage clone a Beta. Desperate to prove her worth and remain with her family, she represses her burgeoning feelings until she falls in love with another Beta masquerading as a human. Before long, the two begin to plot their escape to freedom on the Mainland. Because Elysia is a clone with a data chip (albeit a censored one) but no experience, her first-person narration gives a rather limited perspective on the whole sci-fi world Cohn has created. It allows for a complex setting without the need for much explanation or strict world-defining parameters. Still, the easy reading level but mature subject matter gives the book appeal to older teens with lower comprehension skills. The action-packed conclusion thrilling if plausible only within the science-fiction genre sets the stage for a sequel. Nicole Politi, The Ocean County Library, Lavallette, NJ—SLJ

Popular author Cohn's latest book is a foray into science fiction and the start of a series. In the future, after devastating Water Wars, wealthy and powerful people have created the paradise island of Demesne, where even the air is enhanced to be euphoric. The cloned workers who serve there are soulless entities who experience neither emotion nor sensation. The Beta, Elysia, is one of the first teen clones created, and she is purchased by the wife of Demesne's CEO after their oldest daughter leaves for college. Stunningly beautiful and athletic, Elysia has only fleeting memories of her First, the dead girl she is cloned from. The story is most successful when focused on Elysia's awakening, her guileless reporting of the world around her, and her discovery that she can feel, taste, and love. The science of the science fiction isn't well supported, creating some shaky world building that's weakened further by unconvincing plot twists. Still, the premise is intriguing and fans of Cohn's books may find plenty to enjoy. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Cohn's large, vocal following will be eager to dive into the author's first foray into sf. - Lynn Rutan—Booklist

When humans live in paradise, the servants must be manufactured-but are they still people? Elysia is born fully formed, a gorgeous, fuchsia-eyed 16-year-old cloned from a dead human progenitor, her First. On Demesne, an idyllic island, the humans are socialites and surfers, with emotionless clones to serve their every whim. Elysia doesn't feel emotionless, but then, she is a Beta, one of the first of an experimental new line of teenage clones; maybe she's defective. Bought to be a companion to the wife of the island's governor, Elysia finds dark undercurrents among the theoretically perfectly happy humans, but she's too self-centered to care all that much. Instead, she's more concerned with the dreamy human boy she's somehow falling for, as well as the memories of her First she knows she's not supposed to have. Elysia's robotic nature is inconsistent: She sometimes uses metaphors only to misunderstand similar terminology with humorous literalness soon thereafter. Her teenage idiom could be attributed to programmed adolescence, but it works less well for the adult clone who declares "Bummer!" in a training video or the bored human socialite who whines "Bo-o-o-ring!" The childish language and narrative outlook result in a disturbing if effective dissonance with eventual sexual violence. Though neither the villains nor the heroes make particularly sensible choices, the cliffhanger ending will still lure some into the promised sequel. (Science fiction. 14 & up)—Kirkus

About the Author

Rachel Cohn is the New York Times bestselling author of eleven young adult novels, including Gingerbread, Shrimp and Cupcake and, with David Levithan, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Dash and Lily's Book of Dares.

More About the Author

The great wish of my adolescence was to be diagnosed with scoliosis. Then I would be like Deenie. I LOVED the book "Deenie" by Judy Blume. I wanted to look like Deenie; I wanted her disease; I even wanted to live in Deenie's town, Elizabeth, New Jersey, a short hop from my dream destination, New York City. Although now that I live in Manhattan as an adult (with a fairly normal spine, I'm told), Elizabeth, New Jersey is more known to me as the place with the long lines at IKEA instead of as the hometown of Deenie. Like Deenie, my priorities eventually shifted.
I never did get that scoliosis diagnosis, but from my favorite childhood authors such as Judy Blume, E.L. Konigsburg and Ellen Conford, I did get inspiration for another goal: to write. I can't remember a time when I wasn't trying to create stories. When I started seriously writing fiction, I didn't set out to write specifically for young adults, but as my writing matured, it became clear that when I got stuck writing in teen voices, it was a good place to be stuck. The author question I get asked most often now is how I am able to write from the perspective of a teenager, as if I were in that character's head. The honest answer is, I don't know. I try not to think about it too much, for fear of ruining it. But I do feel like I can readily channel my own teenage self and tap into those feelings, and that's something I try to convey through the written word.
When teen readers write to me now telling me how much they relate to characters I've created -- Cyd Charisse in "Gingerbread" and "Shrimp," Annabel and Lucy in "The Steps" and "Two Steps Forward," or Wonder in "Pop Princess" -- I think, I relate, too: I wanted to be Deenie!

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Customer Reviews

This was a very interesting story.
mapleleafmanny
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.
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
The actual end of the book ended with a surprise twist that I didn't see coming, however, I thought it was a bit..
Ziare

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Christina (A Reader of Fictions) on October 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Evie Seo TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A provocative, intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging tale of humanity, identity, ethics and free will, BETA is, in a word, fascinating. In this fun to read, absorbing and unique novel, Rachel Cohn addresses some interesting ethical issues about the pitfalls of cloning and bio-genetics. She introduces us to a great new heroine that, engineered to serve the wealthy residents of Demesne, is forced to either obediently follow all the rules or die. Disquieting, thrilling and haunting, BETA is the first book in what quickly became one of my new favourite YA dystopian series!

Set on an idyllic island inhabited by only the wealthiest, most powerful people in the world (Demesne), BETA tells the story of Elysia, a first in a new generation of teenage clones. Elysia's life is not her own. She is a clone and therefore she does not experience emotions or desires. She is merely an expensive toy, a servant, a valuable possession designed to do whatever she's asked to do. While she's a novelty that her owners like to show off to their friends, she's also totally expendable and even the smallest hint of being a "defect" will result in her immediate termination. What will happen to Elysia when she'll discover that she might be, indeed, a defect? Will she find it in herself to fight for her life and freedom? In a world where clones are nothing more than slaves, and emotions and desires - a sign of imperfection, is there any hope for this unwanted clone who so desperately wants to live?

BETA has a lot to offer. It's well-written, fast-paced, filled with jaw-dropping twists and unexpected - at times even shocking - plot developments. From the first page to the last, it's a wild, breathtaking ride that is sure to surprise you at least a few times.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Guest Hollow on November 19, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I'm a dystopian junkie. I can't get enough of them. I was really looking forward to reading Beta which appears to be a dystopia/sci-fi mix, but it turned out to be a colossal disappointment. I'm giving it two stars instead of one because the concept was terrific but the execution of the story fell totally flat.

Beta started out with an interesting premise: On a island built around luxury, dead humans are cloned and created to serve in a variety of positions. These clones, while functioning like their human counterparts are missing a very important component: a soul. They function, but they don't taste, wish or feel. They are mimics programmed to serve and please their human masters.

The main character of Beta is an untested clone, one of the first teenage "experimental" models - a Beta named Elysia. She is born, not knowing who she is, learning about the world around her by accessing the chip implanted in her brain and slowly acclimating to her role of servitude. She is a "good girl" doing what she was programmed to do and fitting into her new family in a role not unlike a pet.

The first part of the book was intriguing. Elysia seems to be very good at certain things like swimming and diving...holdovers from her "First" - the person she was cloned from. She discovers she can taste. She experiences flashbacks of her previous, human life. She begins to realize she's different from the other clones. Maybe something is terribly wrong? And yet it feels so right! Elysia carries this secret with her - afraid of what it might mean. Perhaps she is defective...

Sadly, the story started falling apart as it progressed and felt like something a tween would write with wooden non-varied sentence structure that reminded me of a second grade primer.
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