Today is the book birthday of a wonderful novel called Scored, by Lauren McLaughlin. It was sent to me a couple of years ago for a blurb and, as you can see below, I gave it one.
Scored is what the kids these days are calling a “dystopian novel.” But it’s not set in the far future, like, say, Uglies. It takes place only a few decades from now, and the biggest change isn’t some huge civilization-ending meltdown, but a little thing called the Score.
In this future society, everything you do until age 18 is carefully monitored by surveillance cameras, and all of it adds up to your score—a number between 1 and 100. As Lauren puts it here:
How you walk, how often you swear, who you hang out with, how much time you spend on homework are all fed into the system. The software constantly learns from these observations, fine tuning its scoring algorithm until its results are indisputable. The highest scorers get into the best colleges, qualify for the best jobs, earn the most money. The lowest scorers fulfill their destiny as misfits, delinquents, and the permanently dependent. No one can argue with the accuracy of the score because there are no exceptions to the rule. Society doesn’t allow them any more.
It’s one of those books that, like Uglies, might seem to be a straightforward exaggeration of today’s world. High school students live and die by their SAT’s, after all. You can’t get into a good school, and thus have a good future, without a high score. (Everyone tells you so, anyway.) And, of course, cameras are popping up everywhere these days.
But worrying about high-stakes testing and surveillance cams is different from living in a world where they’ve become all-powerful. And that’s what a good dystopian novel does, it takes you into a future and shows you what it’s like to live there.
The main character of Scored is Imani, a high school senior whose score has been in the 90’s her whole life. In other words, she’s a good student and a good kid. But her best friend Cady has started hanging out with an unscored boy, which means Cady’s score is falling fast. And since Peer Group is one of the five pillars of the Score, Imani’s own standing will soon suffer. I won’t spoil anything else, but trust me, the story gets much more intense and complicated as it heads toward its conclusion.
If you’re facing the SATs (or whatever test your school system uses to create your “permanent record”) you should check out Scored. It will be in bookstores everywhere, online and in the real world, starting today.
Click here to read more from Lauren herself.
(Also, I just signed a metric buttload of books at Books of Wonder here in NYC. Click here to mail-order these signed copies. There are some of every series I’ve ever written, so call them if you don’t see the one you want. They probably have it.)