Monday, November 15, 2010

REVIEW: The Unidentified by Rae Mariz

by Rae Mariz
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 5th 2010 
Balzer + Bray

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.

REVIEW: Do you ever get creeped out at how much access Google has to information on you?  Forget it, because it Unidentified, that’s just a fact of life.  In fact, ‘Google’ is so accepted as an all-knowing entity that it has replaced ‘God’ in common phrases, i.e. “For the love of God,” is now, “For the love of Google.”

This is the world that Katey, aka ‘Kid’, is growing up in.  It takes place at an undefined point in the future U.S.  She is educated by corporate companies who monitor and analyze her decisions every time she swipes her student card at school, aka the 'Game'.  The kids get ‘cliqued’ into groups like the Fashion Fascists or the Crafters.  Instead of grades, there are game levels.  Almost every student at the Game hopes to be ‘branded’ by one of the corporate sponsors who fund and run Kid’s school.  Being branded means being put on the fast track to success, complete with access to VIP lounges and oodles of freebies.  Branded kids have ‘stream groupies’ who follow them on the Game’s network.  All they had to do is sign away rights to their personal identities, their talents, and the fruits of those talents.  All students are a part of one big marketing study that is always in progress.  Everything is very carefully planned.  Then, one day someone throws a dummy over the railing at the Game with a sign attached: “UNIDENTIFIED.  CHOOSE YOUR SUICIDE.”

Kid thinks it’s the most authentic act she ever has seen in her carefully orchestrated world.  She also doesn’t get it – she initially thinks it’s a failed publicity stunt since there is no clear message.  Then she sinks into the mystery and doesn’t let go. 

First off, I like Kid, and I love her nickname – ‘Kid’ as in she can be ‘any’ kid.  It felt that way to me, too.  She wasn’t a poseur.  She was into what she liked for the simple fact that it brought her pleasure.  She wasn’t out to be branded.  She felt accessible, but on a ‘real’ level, not on a virtual one.  Once she latched onto the mystery of who threw the dummy over the railing and why, I was hooked. 

However, before that, I had trouble getting into the book.  It failed to capture my interest initially, but I think that was because the author was trying to convey the sense of boredom Kid feels in her own life.  By the time the book did capture my interest, it still fell within the ‘under 50 pages or it’s out’ rule.  Okay, maybe that’s my rule, but it works.  Once I was, I was all in, and the majority of the rest of the book flew by for me.  The ending wasn’t the best – it felt rushed, and truly, I ‘get’ what the author was trying to do, but it felt like the easy way out.  If you want to know what it felt like, feel free to highlight: --> it felt exactly like the vey end of The Matrix, but on a YA level.  It worked in The Matrix because of what led up to it, but not here.  I think the author was trying for an affirmation of idealism, but I felt a little cheated.<--

Let me say this may not be a book for everybody, but it could be.  Frankly, it probably should be.  I found the vast majority of it fascinating, with minor disappointments at the beginning and end.  Despite it dealing with very real and weighty issues such as online privacy, unknowingly participating in a hegemony, corporate bullying and rebellion, Kid goes through the regular motions of being a teenager: crushes, jealousy, feelings of not belonging, etc.   However, to truly enjoy it and 'get' what the author is saying, you need to have an understanding or interest in a few different things:

***Social networking: if you don't understand social networking, i.e. what it is, how to use it, its advantages and its controversies, you may feel a bit lost.

***PR and marketing: If you are not in the least bit interested in how companies gather their information for publicity and sales campaigns, particularly in the online world, then you may have trouble getting into this book.  That being said, once you read this book, you may find yourself very interested.

***Corporate involvement in education:  remember the controversy over credit card companies pushing their cards on college campuses?  Did that alarm you?  If it did, and you have any insight and knowledge into how corporate sponsorships are playing into education, you might like this book.

***If you like 1984 and Matrix-type things, you probably will like this book.

Despite the beginning going slow and the very end being a little flat, I really liked the rest of the book.  I would definitely pick up another offering from this author.

Overall: B

Favorite Quotes:

The world is watching, somehow. And we want to entertain them.  We want to be smart and funny.  Clever, witty, loved.

We want to know someone cares.

We know the sponsors care.  They invest in the schools because they care about what we wear, what we listern to, waht we watch, and what we're saying about what we wear, listen to, and watch.  The cameras aren't there for survelleince, they're there for market research. 

The world is a giant squinty eye, peeking in through the skylight, spying.

Does that creep us out?  No.  We like the attention.
pg. 2

I pulled out my intouch® and thumbed in:

kidzero: is free-falling.  catch me

It was always so much easier to know what I was feeling when I had to put it into words, or more accurately, under one hundred characters, and send it off to the world.
pg. 47


  1. Great review. I have yet to get this book, but hopefully I will soon.

  2. As you say this sounds like a book we should be reading. It all sounds so scary though, the anmount of information stores about us is truly horrorifying.

  3. This one sounds incredibly creepy in a really-gets-you-thinking type of way, and I always like reads like that. It's too bad the beginning was a little slow and the end a little flat, but it still might be something I'd pick up. Thanks for this very thorough review!

  4. Hi all! It wasn't creepy in a spooky sort of way, but in a big brother kind of way. It was unnerving just how in-depth and personal the sponsors got with their research - it really did feel like living in a world with no authenticity.