Published by Balzer + Bray on October 5th 2010
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.
The Unidentified takes place in the (possibly) near future. In this society, education is no longer able to be funded by the government. For both national and local governments, education, while important, is an expense that they can no longer afford. Enter the Game. Its purpose is to help alleviate the financial crisis by allowing corporate sponsors to use the children for marketing purposes and to "help" society's next generation. But when these sponsors know everything about everyone is anything really safe?
I am not going to lie… I had really big expectations for The Unidentified. And when I first got into the book, I loved the idea. Futuristic with a little dystopian hint. Corporate greed and privacy issues. It was a fantastic concept. My issue? I could not get a handle on the world that Mariz creates. All the gadgets and rules of the society came across as a jumbled mess at times. It was so bad that I almost put the book down in defeat. But I managed to push through and about 1/3 of the way through, I finally got a handle on everything.
As far as the characters go, they are a mixed bag. I liked Kid for the most part. She had a decent head on her shoulders. And I liked that she really did not buy into the whole consumerism aspect of her society. She was happy to be who she was. Kid's friends in comparsion… some I liked.. some I really did not care for. Ari being the main example. Yes, I understand that she serves as the stereotypical teen in this society… wanting to be who "they" wanted her to be. But I wanted more from her.
The one area where The Unidentified really blew me away was in the message. Mariz focuses the novel on messages of corporate greed.. privacy.. social networking. It is the good, the bad, and the ugly. And to be honest, aspects of this novel made me paranoid. Everything that you do.. say.. wear.. it is all watched.. it is all judged. It really makes me want to avoid social networking more than I already do.
The Unidentified provokes mixed feelings. I love, love the concept. It was completely original and the messages are very powerful. But the execution of some of the characters and setting needed some work. I wish that I could have hit the ground running with The Unidentified, but it started with a few bumps and got progressively better as the novel went on. However, I was disappointed to find the ending was very abrupt and left me kinda confused for a moment. Will there be a sequel? Not too sure. But all in all, The Unidentified was a very interesting read.