by Rae Mariz
Publication Date: October 5th, 2010
Approximate Length: 296 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Obtained Via: Bought at Books-a-Million
Format Read In: Hardback
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.
You know what’s really needed in order for a Dystopian novel such as this one to succeed? Something has to be at stake, preferably something beyond shallow happiness. And I’m not even sure that was at stake in The Unidentified. This book just fell flat for me. The pace was all right, but the plot didn’t capture me and I felt a heart was missing from this book. Even after finishing, I could barely tell you what happened. Perhaps forgettable is a good word.
The Unidentified group is just sorta. . . there. I mean, the story is named after them, but Kid spends most of her time doing normal teenage things in the game. I think this was for the point of world-building, but it got tiring after a while. All the trademarks and the speech patterns may have lended themselves to a touch of authenticity, but they were also quite annoying after the first twenty pages. If I never see the word Intouch again, it will be too soon. Kid herself is just a pretty bland character, and I think that’s a good way to describe the book on the whole.
The premise is interesting, but the way the world is set up seems so far-fetched to me. Now, it takes a lot for me to say that about Dystopian stories. I didn’t say that about Divergent when many people did, or The Hunger Games, or even The Maze Runner. Normally, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for quite a while. It doesn’t take much to make me happy in way of world-building. It’s honestly not normally that important to me– I’d rather focus on things like plot or characterization. However, in The Unidentified, I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief for that long. The entire point of schools is market research? Sponsorship? I just couldn’t buy it.
The ending to this book was also quite unsatisfactory. Things are changed ( a little bit), a celebration occurs, and then. . . nothing. The point of kids coming together is to throw off the whole idea of popularity and sponsorship, but it all just seemed so shallow. There was precious little at stake, so the “triumphant” ending just seemed kind of silly.
I started writing this review thinking this would be a 2 star book, but the more I write, the more I realized I didn’t like The Unidentified, mainly because the point and premise all seemed shallow. I felt the book could have gone a lot deeper with its theme of marketing, advertisement, and how it effects teenagers. Instead, what happens it an artificial story where I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters or their eventual fates.
Final Impression: The Unidentified had an unique and engaging premise, but failed to deliver in the actual story. I found the entire reading experience rather bland, and have to say I was not a fan. I wished the themes and story had been handled with more depth and less artificiality, much like what the book seems to be trying to fight against. 1/5 stars.