The Unidentified

Oh my Google. The Unidentified was a pretty cool book. It takes place in a not-distant future where, because the government has budgeted no money for education, corporations take over schools. “School” is now “the Game”, and you earn Score by playing what seem to be educational video games or hunting down the answer to a physics question you receive on your phone or by creating art or clothes or music that other kids think is cool and that a Sponsor will want to sell. The catch is that if you get chosen by a Sponsor to be a representative for their brand, or if you get a high enough Score, you can win prizes like a college scholarship, so Score is important to poorer kids like Katey Dade (screen name Kid).

So, I feel kind of bad because I wrote that post earlier about the cheesy romantic writing in this book. And, well, those bits were bad, but they were pretty much the only bad bits in the book, so I can forgive it. Plus, there was this great description of a kiss later on:

I started to get a weird feeling, like people were watching me. That this was a kissing contest, and I might not be getting full points. I thought about the “Last Laugh” track. I thought about Mikey. I pulled away, the experience of kissing Jeremy Swift not feeling how I thought it would.

This is a pretty great kiss, I think. Because how often does a kiss feel all magical and perfect and like density destiny brought you together? But I love this description because Kid’s mind starts to wander, she feels a little ridiculous, she’s underwhelmed. There’s another kiss at the end of the book that I also love: afterwards, Kid just looks up at the night sky and thinks, “Shit, there’s a lot of stars.”

Overall, I really liked this book. It’s no surprise to me that the blurb on the cover was from Cory Doctorow, because it’s all about consumer culture and technology and corporations taking over, which is all stuff Doctorow loves to write about. It also reminded me a lot of Scott Westerfeld’s books So Yesterday and Extras, what with the “cool hunters” picking out trends and people being scored by their online reputation. But the way Mariz created this whole Game around what used to be a school (and is now located in what used to be a shopping mall) is what makes this book feel unique. Not many details are given about how the Game was created or how they got parents on board, but there’s enough that you feel like it could happen.

Kid is sort of a refreshing protagonist. I was a little bit annoyed by her at first because she was kind of a blank slate. She seemed to let her friends define her, hanging out with the Craftster clique just because her best friend Ari does, hanging out with the skaters because her other best friend Mikey does. But it turns out Kid has a lot more going on – she loves mixing weird music tracks that she and Mikey create, full of everyday noises like a bird’s wings beating or people laughing. But she doesn’t want to cash in on their music, she just wants to keep it for them. Kid also has a habit of noticing things other people don’t notice, which is what leads her to start unraveling the secrets of the Game in the first place.

Oh, and there is a character named Tesla (TESLA!) who is a pretty awesome chick and makes cool shit like flipshades (which make everything appear upside-down) and heartthrobs (heart-shaped pieces of jewelry which glow in time with your heartbeat). I would like a spin-off book all about Tesla, please. That is all.

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