Summary (From Goodreads.com)
In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world’s population, life is valued above all else. The mentally ill are sterilized, abortions are illegal and those who refuse to donate an organ when told are sentenced to death.
Determined not to give up her kidney or die, Kelsey enlists the help of her boyfriend Luke and a dodgy doctor to escape. The trio must disable the tracking chip in her arm for her to flee undetected. If they fail, Kelsey will be stripped of everything.
Author: R.J. Crayton
Length: 248 pages
Source: Review copy provided by the author
Series: Yes – #1
Following a horrific pandemic which killed 80% of the global population, Life First is set in a world where the government rigidly controls everything related to health. Everyone is DNA-typed at birth so that when someone needs a new [insert organ here], the best possible match can be found quickly, and the match has to provide the organ.
When Kelsey Reed is informed she needs to donate her kidney, she realises she doesn’t like the idea of being forced into risking her life for a stranger. Determined not to give up her kidney, Kelsey attempts to escape with her boyfriend Luke, knowing that the likely penalty if caught is to be sent to prison with a sentence of death by organ donation (exactly what it sounds like).
Life First is a great concept, because it’s not so hard to imagine. Hundreds of thousands of people sit on waiting lists for organ transplants, and it’s becoming more and more common to hear encouragement to register as an organ donor. A spokesman for the Order of St John told the BBC in September of this year that around 3 people a day die due to a shortage of organs. As opt-out systems are increasingly discussed, it isn’t too far a stretch to imagine the introduction of mandatory donation. This is particularly believable in the small remaining population in Life First, where life is valued above all else (even choice). In Life First, people don’t die whilst waiting for an organ because organ donation is mandatory. However, whilst this means less deaths for those in need of an organ, it also means perfectly healthy individuals are forced to undergo surgery, risking their own health whether or not they want to.
Life First is a very dramatic read, and I couldn’t put it down. The plot is full of twists and revelations: whilst this makes for a great, gripping read, it’s worth noting this means it isn’t at all light-hearted. There isn’t really humour to balance out the tension, and so it can sometimes seem quite dark.
Kelsey is a really interesting character. Is she foolish for running, risking all her organs and death if she gets caught? Is she selfish to refuse to give up her kidney, when someone else could die without it? Or is she brave and justified in doing everything she can to make her own choice, rather than going meekly along with a procedure she’s unhappy with? I’d say at times she manages to come across as a little bit of all of those, but in a believable three-dimensional way. In real life, things aren’t black and white and the same can be said of the characters in Life First. Even the government isn’t strictly ‘evil’ – although controlling and harsh and very anti-choice, it has good intentions behind that.
Recently, I’ve felt like a lot of the dystopian fiction I’ve been reading has followed a formula: the premise to draw you in + a seemingly average protagonist who later develops an incredible skill/talent/ability + a love triangle. Whilst I’ve loved a lot of these, Life First was great because it really stood out as not seeming to follow this formula. Kelsey is also an older, more grown-up character, and Life First is definitely more like new adult than young adult.
Buy it? I’d be happy to buy this one.
In a nutshell:A unique, believable, dystopian, recommended for those looking for a more grown up heroine.