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Quick Snacks: Beta by Rachel Cohn

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 under-current 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.

I do love a good science fiction novel, and for the most part, Beta does the job well. Cohn creates a fascinating new world, with an island of the utmost perfection aimed to give its inhabitants the most pleasurable life experience and an entire workforce of clones custom built to serve them. Though the worldbuilding wasn't quite as precise or developed as I would have liked it to be, I was still able to suspend my disbelief and get into the Elysia's interesting story. Ultimately, though I wasn't completely wowed, Beta is a strong start for what's sure to be an intriguing new sci-fi series.

Rating: 3.75

Review copy from ALA

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