Beta by Rachel Cohn: Book Review

Beta by Rachel CohnBETA by Rachel Cohn Book Review
Series: Beta, #1
Publication Date: October 16th 2012 by Disney Hyperion
Rating: – Exceeds Expectations |

Book Summary:
In a world constructed to absolute perfection, imperfection is difficult to understand—and impossible to hide.

Elysia is a clone, 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 teenaged clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to be created.

Elysia’s 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 there induces a strange, euphoric high that only the island’s workers—soulless clones like Elysia—are immune to.

At first, Elysia’s new life on this island paradise is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne’s human residents, the most privileged people in the world who should want for nothing, yearn. And, she comes to realize that beneath its flawless exterior, there is an undercurrent of discontent amongst 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?

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn’t the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When Elysia’s one chance at happiness is ripped away from her with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she’s always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.

Beta by Rachel Cohn Book Review Overview:

  • Rich world-building
  • Not the biggest fan of the romance
  • The plot is a bit predictable but reading is so much fun that you will hardly care

When I hear Rachel Cohn, I think of angsty but funny contemporary novels – and, of course, collaborations with David Levithan. So, it is not all surprising that I would be skeptical at the news that she was coming out with a science fiction novel. But Cohn proves to everyone that she is a capable writer of writing outside of the genre she is known for. BETA by Rachel Cohn is a compelling read that is a great addition to the science fiction young adult genre.

Elysia’s character was quite charming. Emerged at sixteen, Elysia still has quite to learn even if she has a programmed chip that gives her the basic information that she needs to survive in Demesne. Unused to slang and sarcasm, some of Elysia’s early interactions with the other humans are quite funny. Her character’s naivete could easily have come across as annoying, but because Cohn is such a skillful writer, Elysia is an endearing and funny character.

I love the concept of cloning that makes up the world of Demesne. In Demesne, clones were created from recently deceased bodies to use as servants on this luxury island. Clones are thought to have no soul and their sole purpose is to serve. I love the little details that Cohn has incorporated into the story from the fleur de lis tattoos that mark each clone to the different cloning terminology that they all use. These details in BETA by Rachel Cohn really make the world-building as a whole rich and captivating.

Okay, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the romance in BETA. Is it really necessary? I hate that love and romance became the catalyst that made Elysia realize what she is capable of. I feel like she could have learned this on her own. Furthermore, Cohn makes it quite obvious that there will be a love triangle in this series from very early in the novel. Love triangles are usually a no-no for me, but because the novel isn’t centric around the romance, I let it slide this time. I hope that in the future books, the romance does not trump the real issues at hand: clones’ rights.

Predictable? Quite obviously so. Unfortunately, some of the major shockers of BETA were so obvious from the beginning. However, it is so easy for readers to overlook this factor because the journey getting there is just so much more fun. With that said, BETA does end in an unbelievable cliff-hanger that was quite the jaw-dropper. That was one thing I never would have seen coming. I was so flabbergasted with shock that I can’t even get mad at Rachel Cohn for leaving me with a ton of questions unanswered. This is how you write a cliffhanger. The ending makes you crave for the second book as soon as possible.

BETA is a memorable book that jump starts a new series. You will not forget this book, and you will want to read its sequel almost immediately. Rachel Cohn proves with BETA that she can write more than contemporary fiction.


About the Author

Rachel CohnRachel grew up in the D.C. area and graduated from Barnard College with a B.A. in Political Science. She has written many YA novels, including three that she cowrote with her friend and colleague David Levithan. She lives and writes (when she’s not reading other people’s books, organizing her music library or looking for the best cappuccino) in New York City.

Find the Author

Website | Twitter | GoodReads


  1. I just wanted to say that this is an entertaining read for adult readers as well. I’m middle age and it’s characters and plot were still compelling to follow. The scenery and situation brought to life the situation of slavery in the south in a new way . Perhaps the particular status of “house”slaves and those that could “pass” as white. Thank you for this book and I am really looking forward to your sequels!

  2. I’ve read a few reviews which weren’t impressed by Beta much so reading your review is a good thing; it means I’ll most probably read Beta. Also, I love books where the world-building is outclass and Beta provides just that! I’m usually not bothered by love triangles or well, try not to be.

    Great review, Cialina!

    P.S. Love your blog design. =D

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