Monday, January 23, 2012

Scored - Lauren McLaughlin

Title: Scored
Author: Lauren McLaughlin
Hardcover: 226 pages
Publisher: Random House
Published Date: October 2011
FTC: Won from Random House Teens Random Buzzers

Random House has a cool website for teen and YA books called Random Buzzers.  If you've never checked it out and like that type of book, head on over.  By registering, you can participate in a ton of cool things - contests, chats with authors, cool extras from books.  By participating too, you can chock up buzz bucks and use them to get books.  Very cool idea.  I somehow won a copy of Lauren McLaughlin's dystopian book Scored -- and you know how I love a good dystopian book.

Back of the book:

Forget your family. Forget your friends. You are your score. Score above 90, and you're set for life -- a full college scholarship, the career of your dreams...  Score below 75, and you've got a tough life ahead of you, kid.

Imani LeMonde has worked hard, and one month away from high school graduation, she's a 92.  Unfortunately, her best friend, Cady, is a 71 and falling fast.  And now Diego -- brilliant, iconoclastic, and unscored -- wants Imani for a study partner.  The score-positive choice is clear: Think of your future. Stick with your score gang. Ditch these losers. But something about being scored isn't feeling quite right to Imani anymore.  ScoreCorp - the giant software company whose intelligent, ever-present cameras watch everybody's every move -- says the score is meant to create upward mobility.  But who benefits in ScoreCorp's brave new world?  Is any future worth dumping your best friend for?  Imani will have to decide fast - because once the final score is in, there's no looking back.

In Scored, Lauren McLaughlin builds an insidiously dystopian world, set in a future that's just a little too close for comfort.  What's your score?

My thoughts:

This has to be one of the most realistically possible dystopian books I have read in a long while.  While books like The Hunger Games (my review) and Divergent (my review) are exciting and chock full of action - Scored is disturbing in more realistic ways.

In this future, a huge economic decline called the Second Depression closed down many of the more affordable universities and colleges.  Only the very wealthy get to go to college.  Thus the rise of ScoreCorp.  Imani's hometown of Somerton, a marina town on the decline, is a test town for ScoreCorp.  Almost everywhere she goes, there are eyeball cameras hanging down and watching everything that happens.  Every action is judged and your score is based on that.  Even just being friends with someone who's a "lowbie" or an unscored can damage your score -- which is what happens to Imani.

I thought this was a very interesting and inventive story.  Taking the SAT and ACT score thing to a whole new level, I could actually believe in the eyeball thing too after being in London where virtually everywhere you go in public is being videotaped by CCTV.

Imani is an awesome character to follow.  Her parents struggle to run a bait shop by the marina, she drives her own boat and catches what she can to help out. Her dream is to go to college for marine biology so she can figure out how to help the ecological system of her declining marina.  Struggling with the concept that just by associating with her friend Cady, her score has plummeted, she tries to do the right thing by going to the adults for help: her parents who don't understand at all having never been through the score process, her history teacher who is awesome and rebels against the score but he can because he has tenure, and her creepily score-happy principle.

I loved the character of Diego.  For a reason I don't want to spoil, he is an unscored - either rich enough to not need a score to get into college or some parents and students just don't want to bother with the score for their own reasons.  Diego is very smart and I personally love that he names something (another I don't want to spoil thing) Chaos Foundation - an homage to the Isaac Asimov Foundation Trilogy I'm currently reading.  How cool is that?!  I also loved that Imani - besides having a really cool unique name, is part African-American.  You can sort of tell on the cover.  McLaughlin writes the whole setting and characters so well that I can almost picture it as a movie.  Very cool.

The only thing that might put people off - especially YA audience - is that while there's great characters and a bit of attraction thing between Imani and Diego, the story is mainly about ScorpCorp and the pros and cons of being scored.  In fact Imani and Diego's main interaction is debating about the score - which in the story works but it might not be enough "romance" for the YA audience.  For me, it was a fresh change from some of the Team Edward/Jacob/Peeta/Gale thing.  It's smart.

If you are interested, you can go to Lauren McLaughlin's website and read the first two chapters.

Also Reviewed by:

Becky's Book Reviews

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