Tuesday, October 5, 2010
The Unidentified by Rae Mariz
Kid has a vague sense of unease but doesn’t question this existence until one day she witnesses a shocking anticorporate prank. She follows the clues to uncover the identities of the people behind it and discovers an anonymous group that calls itself the Unidentified. Intrigued by their counterculture ideas and enigmatic leader, Kid is drawn into the group. But when the Unidentified’s pranks and even Kid’s own identity are co-opted by the sponsors, Kid decides to do something bigger—something that could change the Game forever.
This funny, sharp, and thought-provoking novel heralds the arrival of a stunning new voice in teen fiction.
My Take: This is an uncomfortable read. This is part fiction, part non-fiction, quite honestly. Although no year is indicated, it can be assumed that the story takes place in the not-so-distant future. Although no specific current programs are mentioned by name, popularity is calculated by the number of "friends" you have following you.
In this reality, the government school system no longer exists. The educational programs are carefully crafted "games" where there are no teachers but simply different rooms to run simulations. Credits are given for playing and beating opponents or answering correctly and every student is given a smartphone and a computer for educational purposes. Updates of friends are constant, as are sponsor messages. Connection is rarely halted. The more information the students provide, the better their chances for representing a corporate brand, thus cementing their social success and possibly earning a scholarship.
The story is intriguing, although the conflict is not dramatic. Yet the author has touched off many of my alarms with this story. She has taken aspects of our current society and progressed them to a level that would not be unbelievable. As an educator, I cringe every time someone compares the ineptness of the public school system with the smooth corporate model. Rae Mariz (the author) creates a world where corporations are controlling the educational system. Privacy is not a luxury, although most of the characters in the book believe they have it. Freedom comes with a price tag (no privacy and capitalism without anti-trust laws).
This is an excellent read, providing the reader with a lot to consider. Completely enjoyed it.