by Rae Mariz
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Kid knows her school’s corporate sponsors not-so-secretly monitor her friendships and activities for market research. It’s all a part of the Game; the alternative education system designed to use the addictive kick from video games to encourage academic learning. Everyday, a captive audience of students ages 13-17 enter the nationwide chain store-like Game locations to play.
When a group calling themselves The Unidentified simulates a suicide to protest the power structure of their school, Kid’s investigation into their pranks attracts unwanted attention from the sponsors. As Kid finds out she doesn't have rights to her ideas, her privacy, or identity, she and her friends look for a way to revolt in a place where all acts of rebellion are just spun into the next new ad campaign.
I first heard about this book on Presenting Lenore where it caught my attention for two reasons: 1) it's a ya dystopia about consumerism (win!) and 2) the cover (for the ARC, at least) reminded me of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, which meant they needed to be in a Face Off. (The cover has since changed to the one you see up there ^, but the ARC cover -- which is what I have -- can be found below.) I had a feeling this was something I needed to read, so I requested a copy from Balzer and Bray (an imprint of Harper Collins). I never heard anything back (which is not unusual, whether a review copy is coming or not), and so I figured I'd just have to wait the long, tortuous months until it came out -- except that when I got back from ALA, there it was, waiting impatiently for me to read it. And man, am I glad I did.
As I said, The Unidentified is about consumerism gone mad, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the bigger picture here is really personal freedoms. Kid lives in a very programmed world that is maybe a hairsbreadth away from our own. This is no far-distant dystopia that gives you shivers but makes you secretly glad our world isn't like this. Kid's world is very current, very of the moment, and incredibly relevant to the lives we live now. It reminded me of a mix of MT Anderson's Feed and Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, though it's not as hard-hitting as either of those. And I don't mean that in a bad way. The Unidentified is, I think, more easily accessible to general audiences, and girls in particular, as the book centers around a very relatable girl. I loved reading through Kid's journey as she became stronger and more analytical.
There's a good balance of typical YA fare (friend drama, boy drama, who-am-I drama) blended seamlessly with the tech and dystopian elements, and it all works together to make this a light-but-compelling read for die-hard dystopianites, as well as a good introduction to the genre for those who don't normally read such things. Mariz is great at that gray area that exists in dystopias -- those questions and impressions you get that make 1/2 of you say "Well, this totally makes sense. Kinda cool, actually" and the other 1/2 say "This is wrong; this is bad." I think it's great for discussion, about and beyond the book, but even if you're not going to run out and discuss this with someone, it's still completely unputdownable. So pick it up. ;p
ARC cover --->
Oh, and for those of you who know me well and are wondering, yes, I will have a read aloud teaser for the book up as soon as I get a chance (and by that I mean, as soon as I have a quiet house all to myself...)
[Please note: I received an ARC of this book from Harper Collins (thanks!), so changes were likely made in the final edition that may or may not have an effect on this review, were I to have read the final version. Just sayin'. ;p]
A trailer, yo!