Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Unidentified by Rae Mariz

Published October 5, 2010.

Author website.

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, THE UNIDENTIFIED had a good premise but the overall execution ended up being rather ho hum for me.  At the end of the day it was about the social outcast coming to grips with the social strata in her school with the end result being the nonconformists conforming to the nonconformists' conformity.  I was actually kind of disappointed.  I'm not really sure what I was expecting but I know it was definitely something a little more than a higher tech Heathers (which is an awesome movie, THE UNIDENTIFIED, not so awesome of a book).

Kid is your standard I DON'T WANT TO FIT IN chick that purposely goes out of her way to not blend in with the crowd.  Too bad for her that has the adverse effect and her nonconformist attitude gets picked up by the mall/school sponsors as the new uncool cool.  Really, a bit on the lame side.  The anti-popular popular.  Kid then gets branded and her best friend totally hates her for it because BEST FRIEND has been trying soooooooooo hard to get branded (aka sponsorship and free stuff with access to a VIP lounge) whereas Kid obviously bucked the system.  A boy gets involved that equally contributes to the screwing up of things because her other best friend, Ducky Mikey, totally digs her but, of course, doesn't say anything until it's too late and then holds it against her.  Brilliant.

Kid makes an effort to seek out The Unidentified, whom I originally thought to be this epic paramilitary group that could exist in Red Dawn or something but it turns out they're just the school freaks with weird hair that buck the system even more than Kid.  More disappointment.  I saw The Unidentified "twist" coming almost as soon as it entered simply because it played out exactly as what it was.  But whatever.

The more I write about THE UNIDENTIFIED the more annoyed by it I become.  For a book that plays at being covert and espionage-ish is ended up being completely dull and nothing more than your standard high school fare set in a slightly futuristic mall setting with some video games for classes.  The world itself was probably the most unique part of the story: the government ran out of money for education so it started being subsidized by private companies and the whole system ended up being one giant ad campaign with students vying to be each company's number one star.  It's also a world with a lot of anti-kid laws like curfews, a lack of regard for the first amendment where kids aren't allowed to congregate anywhere, walk anywhere, simply because they may cause trouble.  But that latter part isn't touched on too much.  Kid doesn't really go out into the world but once and it's intricacies are off-handedly mentioned as she looks for people.  The story world is pretty strictly confined to the mall.  But outside of that, it's the same story repeated ad infinitum.  There was nothing about that aspect that stood out to me.

In my opinion file this one into the copycat category.  Not really dystopian simply because the world isn't anywhere near built up enough to grasp onto that genre but it's slightly unsettling.  Education going into the private corporation sector for funding is slightly horrifying.  But the story itself is a rehash, playing out like yet another teen movie with this epic We Are The Teen World ending and not much standing it out against the rest.

Ban Factor: Medium - There's swearing and sexual references going on but one would actually need to READ the book in order to find them. That's a non-issue for banners so that alone should make it slide right under their radar.  Maybe.
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