Monday, July 5, 2010
by Rae Mariz
In a startlingly possible dystopian society, the school system has failed to the point that the government gave over control of national education to corporations. These conglomerates have banded together to create what are known as "Game Centers." Here students like Katey Dade, or Kid, go to "school" daily in refurbished shopping malls. They swipe cards to get in and out, they carry issued cell phones with GPS trackers, they post continuously to profile pages and status feeds (eerily similar to Facebook and Twitter), while administrators and corporate officials monitor their every move. Students who acheive the highest scores in games, set the coolest fashion trends, and gain the utmost popularity are "Branded," instantly becoming infamous nationwide and assisting the corporations to plug their wares.
Kid coasts, never looking to become "Branded," until one day through her drawing attention to a malicious seeming prank, Kid is taken up by not just one corporate sponsor, but two, as a "trendspotter" instead of a trendsetter. As she tries to balance new expectations suddenly placed on her life with betrayals by lifelong friends and new relationships, including a potential new boyfriend, Kid also begins to question the structure around her. Drawn to the prank pulling group calling themselves "The Unidentified," Kid longs for her previous anonymity and blissful ignorance of the shady dealings all around her.
Fans of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner will enjoy this new dystopian society. It was actually somewhat scary to imagine our education system converting to something like this, yet it wasn't inconceivable. The fact that corporations run so much in our lives already made this scenario feel ridiculously possible.
Kid felt very "real" to me. She wants to date the cute guy, hang out with her friends, and have fun. She doesn't, however, want to be the next "it" girl, and that's where everything starts to go wrong for her. Her friends were also very realistic characters with flaws that made them seem exactly like today's high school students, just in a really cool new type of school.
Since it's very easy to inadvertently give spoilers in this type of book I will just say that this book made me think, creeped me out a little because it felt possible, and left me filled with hope in the end. A very good read!
Full disclosure: ARC received to review for School Library Journal.