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Review: The Unidentified (Rae Mariz)

Title: The Unidentified
Author: Rae Mariz
Genre: YA dystopian fiction
Pages: 296
Rating: 4 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this from my school's library
Summary (from the back of the book): Everyone knows we are being watched. It's not even something to be paranoid about. It's a fact. We'll be talking to a friend and then all of a sudden, we're AWARE of... I don't know, being public. We start to say our lines too loud, waiting for the audience to laugh. Not for our friend to laugh, just... the world. The world is watching, somehow. And we want to entertain them. We want to be smart and funny. Clever, witty, loved. We want to know someone cares.

We know the sponsors care. They invest in the schools because they care about what we wear, what we listen to, what we watch, and what we're saying about what we wear, listen to, and watch. The world is a giant squinty eye, peeking in through the skylight, spying. Does that creep us out? No. We like the attention.

Review: I haven't heard a lot about this book around the blogosphere, but it's pretty darn interesting. The premise is that the students attend school (called the Game) in an abandoned shopping center. So there are security camera everywhere, they are being watched, and everything is recorded to "better" the Game. Kids who start trends get "branded" by a company and get free stuff. Trends change every few weeks, depending on what the branded kids are doing, saying, and enjoying.

Like video games, students earn points in the Game and progress through levels, not grades. How do they earn points? They play games, enter competitions, go to workshops, buy products, test products, get branded, start a trend (fashion, music, speech, or other), even attend events. Not a lot of learning going on. Really, it's an exaggeration of today's youth with the internet, TV, video games, tweeting, etc. It seems far off, but not really.

I liked the main character, Kid, and her friends. They had "normal" teenage interactions in amongst the weirdness of the Game. And, there is a mystery.... Can you outwit the Gam, its administrators, and sponsors? What happens if someone tries? Can testing the system only get you in trouble or can you make a difference? You'll have to read the book to find out.

Geography Connection:
This book doesn't actually say where it takes place, except that it's in the United States (I think) and the school is in an old shopping mall. So, where do I place this book on my map? I've chosen dead center in the US. Click to see my updated Google Map.


Athira said...

This is the premise on which so many virtual life games are based. It's an interesting theme. I'll be curious to know more about the book.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Aths--we're obviously online at the same time! I am not a video game player, but the book definitely had that feel, as if the characters are in constant contact with lots of people, lots of lights, lots of movement.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. I passed it on to a fellow teacher and he's actually teaching it now. He runs this course for seniors called Pop Culture and they're studying the influence of media on teen culture. It's super interesting and this book is great for that topic. Thanks for your review!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Mrs. DeRaps--How awesome that a teacher is using this book in the classroom. I can see students getting really into the ideas and could this become a reality. I know schools around the country are already talking about getting sponsors to hang banners in gyms, libraries, and classrooms!

Unknown said...

I saw this a few months back and was interested in it, but I read a few bad reviews and forgot about it. But every time I see it in a store, I get the urge to pick it up!

Thanks for the review!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Marie--I think this is worth reading; it's today's teenagers' lives to the nth degree (video games, shopping malls, etc)