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Beta by Rachel Cohn

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betaIn Beta by Rachel Cohn, Elysia is a clone. She was created to serve the inhabitants of the island of Demesne. In order for her to exist, there had to be a body to clone her from. These dead people are called “Firsts,” and, against all odds, Elysia seems to have memories of hers.

These memories would mark her a defect if anyone knew. And Defects are disposed of. As Elysia searches for the identity of her first–and, more importantly, an identity of her own, she embraces her defects.

For the most part I enjoyed this book. There were two big surprises, one I guessed and one that floored me. And then there was the rape. [Spoilers under the cut.]

Yep, rape. We’re beaten over the head with clone-this and clone-that. Even though the clones are programmed to desire nothing more than to do their work many of them have broken free of that programming. There are even human movements to end this slavery. In the first few pages Elysia was purchased right along side some lingerie. We get it, Elysia does not belong to herself. We really, and I mean really, did not need the rape to show us that. It was clear.

Sex is actually a pretty big deal in this book. We experience a human having sex with a clone and we see how matter-of-fact it is for the clone. We see two clones having sex together and see their joy in it. We hear about humans having sex with other humans and how they treat it casually or enjoy it. And we know that Elysia and her boyfriend wanted to wait to have sex until she was free. I’m assuming her rape by one of her human owners at that point was to show us the straw breaking the camel’s back, but it wasn’t necessary. There was already enough in play showing us that.

I think the rape was also to show us how Elysia’s “brother” (owner) changed under the influence of his home-brewed steroids. But, again, we knew that. We’d already seen many times how possessive he was of her, how he continuously told his friends that she was hers and only he could touch her. It was all there.

I had hoped to like Elysia’s relationship with Tahir more than I did. Guessing he, too, was a clone–though an illegal one replacing a tragically dead child–and being right was fun, but that was about the last time it was fun. Elysia’s time with him and his parents was good, though, as it showed us the difference between her life as a clone and his. Tahir is not defective. It also taught her more about the world of cloning on Demesne and about the short life-spans of the clones. Especially those of the teenage betas.

I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. And I did like it, right up until the rape. I love a book about identity and this was that kind of book. And I very much love the last few pages. Without spoiling you, I’ll tell you that those last few pages are enough to get me to read book 2.


Written by tldegray

January 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

Posted in Book Reviews

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