Beta by Rachel Cohn
Summary: Elysia is a clone built to serve the wealthy residents of Demesne, an island of luxury. Elysia is supposed to be a blank slate, but she finds herself remembering things that she’s never experienced—things the person she was molded after experienced. Elysia needs to keep this quiet, because any abnormalities could lead to deactivation.
My thoughts: First of all, how weird is to read a Rachel Cohn book that isn’t realistic fiction? I loved Cohn’s quirky style as a younger teen, so I was ecstatic to see that she would be trying her hand at sci-fi. Cohn definitely brings something new to the table, writing through the demure perspective of a clone learning to feel her way through life.
Elysia’s narration initially comes across as rather bland, which I can see being a disappointment for some readers, but I actually admired Cohn’s dedication to the style of writing. It can’t be easy to write from a perspective devoid of emotion. Elysia eventually begins to evolve—she slowly becomes more emotional—but I actually enjoyed the earlier chapters more because of her blankness.
Despite the uniqueness of the premise, and despite my enjoyment of the writing style, I found it difficult to pick Beta back up after setting it down. To me, a good book will occupy your thoughts when you’re away from it, and Beta didn’t do that. Because of this, it took me a solid week to finish the book, and it isn’t a very big one. I’m not sure what Cohn could have done to make the story more engaging—perhaps more tension between characters, more suspense in the plot—but it just never grabbed me.
For those who like: sci-fi, minimalist writing
Find the author at rachelcohn.com.
Comment question: What are your thoughts on clones as protagonists? Weird/not weird?