Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Book Recommendation: The Unidentified by Rae Mariz

I like to read about things that scare me. No, not vampires and zombies; I’m talking about futures that are disturbing but possible, like the one in Rae Mariz’s The Unidentified.

The government can no longer afford to run schools, so now corporations have taken over. Katey, nicknamed Kid, goes to a school in a former mall, called simply the Game. It’s not the type of school you and I know: grades are described as levels, and classes are played like video games. Students update their status and communicate with friends constantly via Game-supplied laptops and handhelds, all under the watchful eye of corporate sponsors. These sponsors continuously monitor everyone’s feeds, looking for the latest trends to exploit and students to “brand” with their merchandise—or spot potential trouble.

At first a dummy tossed over a fifth floor railing, with the sign “UNIDENTIFIED. CHOOSE YOUR SUICIDE” on its back, seems to everyone like another corporate marketing stunt. But Kid’s curiosity and unease cause her to investigate the prank’s origins, starting with an uploaded video she finds of the event. She starts to draw attention from sponsors, particularly the Game’s security firm, Protecht. What happens is previously-unknown Kid is now plunged into the middle of an obsessive media culture, where status and popularity fluctuate not just day-by-day, but minute-by-minute; and endless co-opting and rebranding has Kid questioning everyone else’s motives, including her own and the Unidentified’s.

This book reminded me of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, but without the plastic surgery and a whole lot of media savvy and high-tech. If you didn’t think much about your Facebook page or Twitter feed before, or don’t pay attention to those internet banner ads that follow you everywhere you surf, you will after reading this. I give this a definite thumbs-up.

By- Debra B.

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