BETA (Annex #1)
Young Adult/Dystopian/Sci Fi
Available October 16th
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Amazon)
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.
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
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?
Beta is a story that starts out seeming as though it will be an interesting and entertaining foray into the science fiction genre, but the deeper into the story we get, the more uncomfortable we find ourselves, the would-be utopia of Demesne slowly becoming riddled with flaws that disturb us more and more the longer we think on them. Ms. Cohn gives us a literally perfect protagonist – stunning physically and programmed to be obedient and compliant – but she is without passion, ambition, emotion, or independent thinking, as was intended when she was created. She is a shell, and it’s with a slowly dawning horror that we realize this empty vessel is what the people of Demesne consider to be the ideal, and as Elysia discovers and explores the subtle nuances of wanting and feeling, it's then that we are given the word “defect” to associate with her, and we read on comparing and contrasting our definitions of perfect and imperfect with those of the residents of Demesne.
Because Elysia is a clone, a young woman newly emerged after the death of the girl on whom she was based, it takes us a little while to relate to her, but we soon discover how necessary that time is as it gives us the opportunity to build a relationship with her from the foundation up, by her side every step of the way as she learns what it means to be human. The more Elysia begins to exhibit the traits of a Defect, the taller we stand behind her, wishing we could be with her in person to answer her questions and encourage her differences so she wouldn’t feel quite so alone among people who cause us shame at the fact that we have to include ourselves in the same species classification as them, even if they are purely fictional.
Though Elysia’s story is intriguing, it's extremely challenging as well, her innocence a stark contrast to those who make up her new “family”, and as we read our stomach ties itself in ever-tighter knots, our instincts crying out in warning that her innocence is about to be brutally shattered. Each chapter causes a hairline fracture to form in the little glass bubble the residents of Demesne seem to live in, and by the time we reach the concluding chapters there are so many cracks the bubble of perfection has no option but to implode under the external pressure stemming from the cruelty and brutality of those around Elysia. The final pages of this story are disturbing – intentionally so – darkness and violence erupting amidst the deceptive calm of Demesne as a whole, and though we know such events are meant to be unnerving, we can't help but find ourselves struggling to come to terms with everything that happens.
Overall, Beta is a surprisingly grim read, the depiction of a perfect world infected with varied strains of imperfections – some more extensive than others – knocking us back on our heels and forcing us to think about what it means to be the sole owner of our lives, our loves, and our happiness.
*Due to the concluding chapters, this story is highly recommended for older readers of young adult fiction*