14 November 2011

Scored by Lauren McLaughlin

Set in the future when teenagers are monitored via camera and their recorded actions and confessions plugged into a computer program that determines their ability to succeed. All kids given a "score" that determines their future potential. This score has the ability to get kids into colleges, grant scholarships, or destroy all hope for the above. Scored's reluctant heroine is Imani, a girl whose high score is brought down when her best friend's score plummets. Where do you draw the line between doing what feels morally right and what can mean your future? Friendship, romance, loyalty, family, human connection and human value: all are questioned in this fresh and compelling dystopian novel set in the scarily forseeable future.

I really identified with this book. Or, more specifically, I really identified with Imani. Imani is a great character, and we have a lot in common: good students, considered “good kids” by the teachers and public, from a low-income family striving to give their kids a better life, and seeing nothing in the future but college and the promise of a better life that it holds. In Imani’s world, the better life is by working the “score” system that can get her a full ride into a good school. The problem is that although the company that runs the score publishes their parameters no one really understands how it ranks students or why some have high scores and some have low. Association, though, is apparently one of them because Imani falls from the low 90’s to the 60’s because her best friend, Cady (a 70) is dating an “unscored” (someone who has not submitted to the scoring system) , something completely unheard of for the scoring system and earning her a score in the 20’s. At the same time Imani is assigned a scholarship essay on how the score system is bad, and her research leads her to some unexpected places and associations. The plot is great, flowing from action to action with just enough rest that it feels well-paced and not breakneck-throttle. Imani is a great character, and like I said when I started, I saw a lot of my teenage self (and I imagine a lot of other high-school overachievers) in her. Her conflict between friendship and loyalty and the opportunity to better herself with the score system is so realistic it’s heartbreaking. I recommend this book to everyone who likes a good traditional 1984 and Brave New World –type dystopia.

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