Megan's Reviews > Beta

Beta by Rachel Cohn
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's review
Aug 13, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: physical-review-copies
Read from October 23 to 27, 2012

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.

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Reading Progress

10/23/2012 page 51
10/23/2012 page 51
16.0% "Elysia's personality is...

But she's a clone and that's expected...but for a protagonist? Ehm..."
10/26/2012 page 175
57.0% "This book makes me sad because I want it so badly to be awesome but it's not."
10/26/2012 page 259
85.0% "Sex saves the day!"
10/26/2012 page 259
85.0% "Sex saves the day!"
10/26/2012 page 259
85.0% "Sex saves the day!"
10/26/2012 page 259
85.0% "Sex saves the day!"
05/07/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Ashley (last edited Oct 29, 2012 10:45AM) (new)

Ashley My God, this book would enrage me if I read it. I was thinking about reading it because I saw it pop up on a few people's "To Read" lists, but not now. Not ever.

message 2: by Nasty Lady MJ (new)

Nasty Lady MJ Ugh. You know someone actually highly recommend Cohn's books to me a few months back. Now I don't know. I know I have a hard time enough being berated for being pro choice (I grew up in a very conservative town), so this plot point looks like it could trigger some bad emotions.

message 3: by Summer (new)

Summer Yep, not touching this with a 50 foot pole for all the reason you hated it. I read for enjoyment, not to get enraged, and this would enrage me.

message 4: by Amber (new)

Amber Thank you for saving me from the ragecaps reading this would have induced. UGH. Just UGH.

As Hot As Jack Frost I completely agree with this. Nice review.

♠ Tabi ♠ Great review. I only wish I had seen this before I picked up this book from my library. Wow. I only got about halfway through when I just closed it and stuck it back in my bag to bring back as soon as possible. From you said, I seem to have saved myself much more greif and unneeded stuff that I don't want to read about.

Michelle Chen I wish I read your review before reading the book... Too late!

Megan Lara J. Mackenzie wrote: "I wish I read your review before reading the book... Too late!"

This book had some serious issues that's for sure! It's really irresponsible to use a rape pregnancy as a plot device to create romantic tension. Or to use it at all in a book for young teens.

Michelle Chen Megan (Book Brats) wrote: "Lara J. Mackenzie wrote: "I wish I read your review before reading the book... Too late!"

This book had some serious issues that's for sure! It's really irresponsible to use a rape pregnancy as a ..."

I agree with you - especially for a young adult novel! I'm surprised it's even there - how did the editors or the publishers even let this pass and be printed? - Something of that nature, as a plot device, is just too much.

Megan Rachel Cohn is an established author. If it was a debut author, I doubt they would have let that through. It's squicky for one thing, but it basically gave the message that aborting a baby is wrong and that she should be happy she was raped and given this gift.

message 11: by Anya (new)

Anya Lasagna Well there went my momentary desire to read this book! :D

message 12: by Yael (new) - rated it 2 stars

Yael Itamar What's weird is that I think Rachel Cohn has actually written books about a character who has gotten in abortion--and from what I hear, it wasn't written in a negative light. But that plot point definitely pissed me off. The entire book is about Elysia asserting ownership over her life, and the fact that everyone refused to let her abort the baby completely undermined that.

message 13: by Eden (new)

Eden I stopped reading before I even hit 100 pages. Elysia wouldn't shut up about how beautiful and perfect she was and all anyone talked about was how beautiful and perfect she was! I'm glad I didn't finish the book. It souds even more awful than I imagined.

Briana In regards to the pregnancy: I was actually very surprised the Elysia, someone arguing for the rights of a people not recognized by general society as being human "enough" to have rights, would instantaneously react to her own pregnancy by screaming "Get it out!" I'd think she would be open to a broader definition of "life" than other characters?

message 15: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Mandina Okay, I'm wondering, maybe because I read an ARC, but I didn't see all the "god" and Christian stuff in the story that you're talking about? Maybe it was added later? Also, the reason this character that was so caring at the beginning changed is because his version of the 'raxia he was doing was obviously also basically steroids, which cause guys to be like that, I think that was the point.

Megan Lisa wrote: "Okay, I'm wondering, maybe because I read an ARC, but I didn't see all the "god" and Christian stuff in the story that you're talking about? Maybe it was added later? Also, the reason this charact..."

There are Bible verses written on a nightstand, for one thing, but honestly, I've blocked this book from my memory. It was mostly the anti-abortion stuff at the end.

Carolynn I think showing that she was forced to carry that baby was showing how domineering the clones are as well. They also want to control her life. It wasn't pushing any agenda, it was showing how the structure of life over there is not perfect either.

Kendra I've always thought that Elysia's baby was from Tahir. I mean, they made love more times than Ivan did.

message 19: by Alex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex Elysia and Tahir never actually had sex, the whole thing was that Ivan stole from her what she wanted to give to Tahir. I'm so sad because I thought this book was pretty good for the genre until the whole love thing with Tahir came into play...that's when things started going downhill :( The rape baby and pro-life shit was pretty intolerable. I'm so disappointed!

message 20: by Jess (new) - added it

Jess Myname Thank you for your review I will add this to my no list

message 21: by Liz (new) - rated it 5 stars

Liz You're right about the rape scene. However, I don't think the drug use was pointless. It was showing how wealthy teens escape their reality and is a subtle satire of today's world.

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