Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Unidentified [Review]

Title: The Unidentified by Rae Mariz
Genre: Science-fiction
What They Say:

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...

What I Say:
I waited a looong time to get my hands on this book, so I guess that's why my expectations where so high when I finally got around to reading it. All-in-all, I'd say I grudgingly liked this book. It had this shaky balance between major suck and ho-shit-must-keep-reading! which was probably her publisher's main justficstion for actually printing it. That said...

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Plot: ooh
Katey is completely average, and she has the Game scores to prove it. The Game is the future equivalent of school, except it's a giant teenage social paradise built in an old shopping mall complete with arcades, music studios, movie theatres, etc. Grades are points earned in games and - much like in real school - being popular. But the Game isn't in a mall for nothing. It's practically run by corporations with cameras everywhere to track trends and buzz and which kids they'll choose to Sponsor next. To be sponsored is to reach the height of popularity and get free stuff. These "Branded" kids have the most friends on their intouches® and party in VIP rooms à la Gossip Girl. But Kid doesn't want to get sponsored, not really. She's really interested in a recent prank pulled by an underground group of kids who call themselves Unidentified. These kids don't play to the Game's rules. They don't have any intouch® friends or follow trends and they're widely ignored by the sponsors in their attempts to eff up the system. That is, until one Kid Dade takes notice of them, and as expected things get hella complicated.

Not gonna lie, the first fifty or so pages were so hammy and dull and obnoxious that I was fully prepared to give this book 2 stars and drop it ASAP. But then Mariz pulled a twist right out of Scott Westerfeld's Extras and I was helplessly hooked till the end. I liked the idea of getting sponsored, kind of like getting Partnered on YouTube except on a grander scale. Now, to touch on the ending without being spoilery, I get what Mariz was doing there, but I was actually hoping to be surprised by a cliffhanger and a Book 2. She creates this world which, if you look closely and re-read some of the offhand comments she throws in there, is a lot eerier and more sinister than you first suspect. I mean, even the premise of the book raises suspicions as these odd little aspects of their society are revealed. Like, why are they holding the country's kids in isolation all day and the not letting them go anywhere but home every evening? Why are there laws against young people hanging out in public?? She added all this set-up for a potentially crazy good dystopia series and then oh look lastpagenosequel! Sadface.

Characters: ooh
I appreciate characters who aren't  morally ambiguous per se, but aren't whiny pasty agonizers either. So kudos to Kid for not getting on my nerves. And also for not being a preachy cynic spilling social commentary out her ears. These character traits would work for other characters, but even I wouldn't have had the staying power to read three hundred pages of "I am sooo above this." Because her friend Ari is right, in a way. We are all fame whores, just a bit. No use denying it.

That said, Ari is one of most annoying, aggravating characters out there. Just auugh. She makes all girls look like tooly little glasslickers. Auugh again. Please, dear readers, never never ever aspire to be like this girl.

Mikey is that good old best guy friend who doesn't stay angry at you for two hundred pages like some people we know. I was expecting this to be one of those books where the main character breaks away from her society but her friends are all still tragically brainwashed, but it sooo wasn't like that. Mikey's no Asher, I'll give him that.

Jeremy Swift is extremely intriguing. Now that I think about it, I don't remember him saying anything terribly adorable, but I waxed poetic for a few pages here and there all the same. But you don't get Sponsored by school security unless you like raining on parades and being just a little but toolish. That's like a rule. 

Relationships: ooh
Kid and Swift - Why does the gorgeous popular guy who never looks twice at the main character until she gets interesting have to always disappoint her in the end? Siiigh. Can't extremely cute but ultimately shallow and false love last for once?? He was soo intriguing. Oh wells. Rule No. 1 of YA prevails yet again. First guy wins, second guy loses. Should have noticed her sooner, buddy.

Kid and Mikey - Hmm, I don't know about these two. Last minute romance is always kind of a cop-out. At least he wasn't the brooding jealous type. He got over that sting of unrequited love pretty fast! I approve. So I guess he does deserve to get the girl on like the third-to-last page.

Special Features: ooh

I said earlier that this book was kind of like Extras, and it is. They both focus on the idea of fame having a nearly-monetary value in their respective worlds, both have a public ranking of the most popular people, and the main girls in both books find themselves inexplicably thrust to the top one day. Perks and fabulousness ensue, but being in the spotlight puts their secret group of prank-pulling friends in danger of exposure... Huh, weird, these books sounds awfully similar. (I didn't even notice the similarities until I started on this section, haha.) On that note, read Extras after you read this book because it was goood.

Parting Quotes:
The sound of female laughter could be chilling. Anyone who thought girl-giggling was harmless, charming, and pink was way misguided. I pressed Record on my intouch® to capture the uniquely primate sound.
Oh, and Kid remixes everyday sounds into music. That's pretty cool.

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