There are certain books that you simply expect to love. They get so much buzz that it’s hard not to love them even before you read them. If you’re lucky, they actually are as good as everybody says. I call these books “Pre-love books”—books like MATCHED and PARANORMALCY. I mean, these books were amazing, and I LOVE it when a book meets such high expectations. But I think what tends to happen sometimes is that we’ll assume they are the only good books. Or perhaps we know better, but sometimes we’re afraid to risk our overblown book budgets on books we don’t recognize because they haven’t been heavily promoted.
So, take a look at this book and remember it. Consider this book pimped:
THE UNIDENTIFIED by Rae Mariz
Goodreads description: 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 think it’s safe to say I have never read a book quite like this. It took me a couple of pages to get a feel for what it was about, and a little bit longer to get a solid grip on the world—which is the same world as ours, just in the future. But once I got it, I GOT it. And let me tell you, on the surface, this is a world I would have loved to live in as a kid. I mean, come on, a school where you don’t have to struggle through the normal classroom setting, but instead you get to play interactive video games all day? Where you get to watch robot wars? Where you get sponsors to buy your wardrobe? Crazy cool.
But beneath the surface? Holy crap, it’s high school drama magnified times a bajillion, because there are corporations validating and encouraging the notion of cliques by sponsoring kids who have established a certain image; imagine goths, preps and jocks getting financial sponsorship and image guidance from Spencers, Eddie Bauer, and Nike. Any sense of individuality is muted because to stand out by being different is to create an image or a brand that will be marketed as an image to be replicated by classmates. It’s a total mind trip that will have you questioning the whole concept of conformity because even rebellion is, in a sense, a matter of conformity—that’s what the sponsors are looking for, as rebellion can be seen as a cool thing to be advertised and sold.
It’s an intriguing foundation for a book, to be sure, but it’s not until The Unidentified prank that Kid starts to question her role and that of all the students within The Game (the school). THE UNIDENTIFIED highlights some of the greatest issues of adolescence: identity and privacy (and even first love), making this futuristic novel feel totally relevant to today and probably always.
But one of the coolest aspects of this book is the voice, which felt so genuine, so sharp, I could hear it in my head as if it were being spoken aloud. But there isn’t a single WTF or OMG—instead Mariz has created her own slang or teen-speak, the meaning of which is completely identifiable through context, so that the voice can feel legitimate without dating the book. The prose won’t escape your notice either. I can’t tell you how many lines stopped me in my tracks because they were so thought-provoking and gorgeous, like written works of art, and yet accessible, like not the abstract kind of art that gives me a headache trying to figure it out. More like Renoir, but, you know, less old and way more hip. Like, okay, here:
Mike spent all his time working on the most pathetic little spidery-legged robot. It was raw clumsy and adorable. (81)
It’s simple, but so vividly constructed and filled with voice. What more can I say? For writers, this books kicks some serious ass. Read it once for pleasure and a second time to learn how to write YA—or how to write period. For readers? Read it twice just for the hell of it. It’s awesome.
THE UNIDENTIFIED is now available for preorder and will be released October 5, 2010.
Be sure to go check out what books some of the other Bookanistas reviewers are celebrating today.
Scott Tracey is ravenous about HUNGER
While you’re at Christine’s blog, you might want to read the first chapter of her new nonfiction book, EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS, to be released October 1, 2010.
And finally, Happy Birthday, Sara McClung! Be sure to stop by and wish her a happy day :D