Synopses & Reviews
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.
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
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
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 and 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.