Imagine a school set up like a computer game. You make the decisions, you control the action, you play the game. If your profile is right, you’ll get branded by one of the sponsors. Then you’re celebrity cool. And that’s what everyone wants, isn’t it?
Katey, aka Kid, is not so sure, though being branded would solve some financial problems. But when she witnesses a mock suicide, she finds herself drawn to an underground counterculture group – the Unidentified.
Then the real game kicks off.
I had no idea what this book was about, I think I won it on Twitter or Facebook but I didn’t make a note in the book when I received it so it’s anyone’s guess. I tried not to read the back as I’m enjoying the idea of opening a book without knowing anything about it. I’d like to do that with a movie too, especially a Mel Brooks movie; I always wonder if the knowledge that it’s a Mel Brooks movie means I know I’m going to enjoy it as opposed to actually enjoying it. I can’t help wondering if there’s a difference.
Anyway, onto the book. The supposition that schools are handed over to the corporation and the students will study games for rewards is an interesting one. I’d certainly be curious in seeing if that model works, I’m sure it works for some people but others might not like it. I enjoyed the writing, it was aimed fair and square at the young adult market, the lead character is likeable and vulnerable. Computers, large and small are used throughout the book and Twitter (under a different name) is used as a communication device by staff and students alike. All the privacy and nonprivacy options are there and we see them all in use. We see that parents are allowed and able to block their children from leaving school at certain times, parents are able to monitor them and children are able to figure out how to work around those blocks. They do this by programming their computers, so they’re learning more programming which will stand them in good stead when they leave school and get a job. Now, I’m not condoning kids going against their parents instructions but it is interesting how things move on in this book and you don’t wag school by just jumping a fence but by learning how to write programmes.
Kid just happens to be in the right place at the right time and then happens to be the first to investigate the mock suicide, something the school authorities are able to monitor, and so the sponsors pick her out as someone to brand and make her a leader. Kid is not happy with this and feels like a fish out of water but in the end adjusts to the situation and uses it to her advantage. This shows that investigating, putting information together and learning can be a good thing. It indicates Kid has learnt how to do these things in school, pointing out that school can be a good thing. So many people don’t like school and can’t see it as a means to an end but I feel this book does highlight this problem and show a positive solution.
I’d certainly recommend this book for anyone interested in young adult literature. I would be happy to recommend it to roughly 13 years and onwards.