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Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel
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Beta - Rachel Cohn I won’t mince words and as a result I am going to spoil this book a little. If you are afraid of spoilers, please don’t read on. Fair warning.When a book uses rape as a plot point, especially when the character was initially a supporting and caring brother-like figure, I get pissed off. When this is compounded with the rape victim getting pregnant and those around her not allowing her to get an abortion because her child is too special, then that just makes me rage. BETA has this and more, which made me struggle with giving this one even two stars. It gets bonus points for one reason – it is compulsively readable and fast paced. But other than that, this book deserved one star for a number of reasons, and it’s why BETA will probably go down in infamy as my most disappointing read of 2012.BETA follows a soulless clone, a girl named Elysia that comes off strongly as a stereotypical robot – a slave, unfeeling, uncaring, focused solely on her duty. When a soulless clone is narrating a first person present tense story, though, you are running into a big issue. Elysia oftentimes felt very, very flat, as if she was the victim of a 6 year old’s fanfiction. “I did this and this and went here and saw him and this and this.” If this story had been told instead in a third person past tense, it might have been more successful, even if at times this personality-less visage disappeared – it was inconsistent at best.Elysia’s love interests are pretty much stock characters, and each fall victim to instalove in their own right. Tahir is the boy with secrets, handsome and compelling but just as bland as Elysia. Alex is the boy we don’t meet for several hundred pages, but a boy with a deep connection to Elysia. And then Ivan, the boy who is apparently head over heels in love with Elysia while making drugs and preparing to enter the military.The secondary characters are generally bland. Mother and the Governess are stock rich characters you might find in the backdrop on Revenge. The Fortesquieus (Tahir’s parents) are slightly more relatable, given more of a back story that allowed me to connect with them more than any other character than possibly sweet Liesel, the daughter of the family that owns Elysia. When we meet the other teenagers of the story – bland Greer, sexed up ditz Demetra (aka Dementia – a rather intellectually impaired girl used as a sex object throughout the story – and as an object to make fun of her intelligence), among others – we do not delve very deeply into this world more than into tales of parties and rule breaking and general disobedience, nothing that adds to this dystopian world of man versus clone.But where this story lost all credibility for me was the point where Elysia reveals to her brother-like figure Ivan that she has feelings for Tahir. Up until this point, Ivan had felt like a calm, conscientious figure that trusted Elysia and wanted to be her friend. She put her trust in him and he did the same with her. Then suddenly he morphs into a devious figure that assaults her, choking her and raping her to lay his claim to what he thinks is his property. And then she kills him and runs off, saved by the good graces of Alex. Within what feels like 3 days, they have pledged their undying love for one another after a rather ludicrous explanation of his hardcore eco-warrior religious society’s mating for life deal when SURPRISE! Elysia is pregnant. She demands an abortion, but Alex and her other savior refuse. They force Elysia to carry her rapist’s child, saying that the child is too precious, too special to abort, and use the same tactics of hardcore pro-life groups to convince Elysia to carry the child that she does not want.What. The. Fudge.I will admit, I am VERY pro-choice. Then again, I am a hardcore left wing nutso, so that could explain things. I do not agree with using rape as a plot point, followed by a propaganda-ish demand that a rape victim carry the rapist’s baby for no real reason other than plot. Mixed with pointless drug use, including helping drug a boy so that he loves her back, and the dreaded use of suicide threats when the boy of her dreams (that she has known for two weeks) is taken away from her, I began to seethe. This rarely happens except when domestic abuse, rape, and damaging relationships are promoted heavily. Elysia’s baby is treated as a gift from God, and with the smattering of biblical passages and revenging eco-religious warriors, I wonder how much of this novel is some weird pro-life propaganda tool. I mean, that’s probably not the case, but when it hits me in a side thought that it seems like something a conservative Christian would foist on their child, that is not a good sign.I cannot recommend this book. I want to so badly – the plot on paper is amazing and unique, and could have so many opportunities to explore the relationship between the rich and poor, between humans and clones/robots, between science and humanity. Instead, it became an instalove fest of drugs, rape, and the underlying message that a girl should not abort a child thrust upon her by a rapist, even if that child threatens her emotional health and wellbeing.VERDICT: Featuring rape, drug use as a tool of control, and an anti-abortion message, BETA thrashed my hopes for an epic story. At least it was fast-paced.1.5/5