by Teri Terry
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books
on January 24, 2013
My summary: A few decades into the future, England has developed a new method of rehabilitating troubled teens. Their memories are wiped clean, and they are given new identities and new lives. Known as Slateds, these teens wear special bracelets that monitor their moods and teach them to control their emotions. As a Slated, Kyla is placed with a new family and encouraged to integrate herself back into society. She tries, but she's plagued by disturbing nightmares. Then people around her start to be dragged away by the authorities. Is Kyla's past really behind her, or is it the key to finding out what's really going on?
My take: I have serious dystopian fatigue lately, but I was won over by this book's premise. While the memory wipe is not new, (this stuff happens in Harry Potter, and in movies like Paycheck, Men In Black, etc. etc.) I don't recall it being used as a form of rehabilitation. That part of Slated is very cool. I mean, in an increasingly high-tech world, it seems like our penal system has remained rather primitive.
In the futuristic world of the book, England reached a state of crisis over terrorism and gang violence and the country had to deal with a large number of teen offenders. These Slateds remain under close observation until they are re-taught basic life skills, then are reintegrated into a new life. This is where we meet Kyla. She's now the daughter of parents she's never met, attending a new school, and trying to figure out who she is without her memories. That part of the book is very cool. There are a lot of intriguing clues doled out throughout the story -- the death of Kyla's foster mom's biological son, Kyla's mysterious and disturbing dreams, and a memorial at school to a busload of teenagers killed by terrorists.
Kyla is an appealing character -- a good blend of strong and vulnerable. The family who fosters her is also nicely drawn -- a tough as nails mother who shows a softer side, a father who seems nice but is clearly hiding something, and a sweet foster sister. I enjoyed watching Kyla navigate her new life, though at some point when everyone she comes into contact with starts to be dragged off by the authorities, I felt like she should have wised up a little faster.
I also wish Slated's political landscape had been more nuanced. There seem to be two equally unappealing factions: the dictatorial Lorder (Law and Order) group and the violent AGT (Anti-Government Terrorists.) There's also a serious problem in the romance department. While the book seems to be pushing Kyla toward the very blah Ben, I was mentally pushing her toward brainy computer geek Mac -- seriously, does every computer nerd have to be named Mac? -- who works on some Top Secret website that tries to track missing teens who might have been Slated. See note below**
I also think Slated could have been wrapped up in one volume. Things dragged a little at times, and when the ending came, I was a little aggravated that, once again, I'd have to wait a year to find out how the story wraps up.
That said, I do think Slated is a stand-out in the hugely crowded YA dystopian field. Slated's premise is fresh, the writing is good, and the book raises a lot of thought-provoking ideas -- something a lot of dystopian books seem to forget about as they focus on love triangles and makeovers. If you love dystopian fiction, definitely give Slated a try.
**My blogger friend KimbaCaffeinate points out in comments that Mac is 22 and a little too old for sixteen year-old Kyla. Good point. I guess I blocked that out. Okay, new theory: Kyla isn't really 16. I mean, she has no memory. She doesn't know how old she is. So maybe she is 17. Can you tell I'm a Mac fan?
This book will be part of my Freebie Friday: RAK on February 1!