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Reading Between Classes

A unique perspective on YA Literature from a junior high teacher. 

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Kami Garcia
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Beta

Beta - Rachel Cohn This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: The color covers are pretty but it feels like someone went a little overboard in photoshop. The tattoo and violet eyes would have been much more impressive if they had been part of the original photo shoot rather than being added later. I do like the stark, unfeeling expression on the model's face.The Gist: Elysia is a Teen Beta Clone. Her entire purpose is to please the family that has bought her - by whatever means necessary. Living in the island paradise of Demesne, life is idyllic and easy. But, as Elysia starts to learn about the underbelly of the island, secrets begin to unravel and she learns that the life of a clone may be more complicated than she ever imagined.Review: Beta had a great premise: a world where clones are created to serve the elite, where slavery is allowed because the clones do not have a soul. Against this backdrop, we meet Elysia, one of the first Teen Betas - an experimental type of clone that has not been fully tested. Entering the world at 16, Elysia becomes the companion for a group of teens and is allowed a glimpse at the secrets underlying this tropical paradise. The first few chapters showed a great deal of promise, however things went downhill from there. I could not develop any feelings for the character of Elysia. I could understand the flat affect at the beginning of the book as a result of her being newly "born", however, I was looking for growth over the course of the novel and I didn't get it. I felt no connection with her, or her predicament. I also found that Elysia made a rather large leap from complete compliance to utter anger and violence with little indication that this was coming. The relationship factor in this book was maddening. We have a case of insta-love, followed by a completely one-sided infatuation that bordered on being completely pathetic. In an attempt to make her paramour feel something, Elysia encourages sexual exploration and drug use. To me, it felt very much like a "if I just do this, then he will love me" situation and that made me sick to my stomach. That being said, once the first love interest is out of the picture, Elysia very easily accepts a new man, proving that she clearly does not have feelings for anybody - despite her arguments to the contrary. This weird love triangle at the end felt like it had been tacked on simply to garner interest in reading the sequel. The first few chapters were rife with infodumping, but, beyond that, there was some action and time to learn about an interesting world. However, once Elysia finds her love interest the plot grinds to a virtual stand-still. I can barely even remember what happened during these chapters other than playing a weird video game, doing drugs and eating. Despite the politically charged atmosphere and Rogue Clone issues bubbling beneath the surface, we are forced to endure trips to the beach and endless talk about swimming (I get it Elysia - you like the water, now MOVE ON!).I was very disturbed by the unnecessary drugs, nudity, sex and rape in this novel. It seemed like every few pages featured a mention of 'Raxia or of someone getting near naked for no reason. Even if I loved this novel, there is NO WAY I could recommend it for my students. I will not be sticking around for the sequel to Beta. Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 16 and upGender: FemaleSex: Kissing, Nudity, Sexual ExperimentationViolence: Rape, MurderInappropriate Language: Slut, Whore, BitchSubstance Use/Abuse:Use of imaginary drug, 'RaxiaOther Issues: Cutting, Slavery