Set in the future when teenagers are monitored via camera and their recorded actions and confessions plugged into a computer program that determines their ability to succeed. All kids given a “score” that determines their future potential. This score has the ability to get kids into colleges, grant scholarships, or destroy all hope for the above. Scored’s reluctant heroine is Imani, a girl whose high score is brought down when her best friend’s score plummets. Where do you draw the line between doing what feels morally right and what can mean your future? Friendship, romance, loyalty, family, human connection and human value: all are questioned in this fresh and compelling dystopian novel set in the scarily forseeable future.
Scored, although considered a dystopian novel, isn’t quite a dystopia…yet. Imani, the protagonist, lives in a trial city where the people are incessantly monitored by digital “eyeballs.” These eyeballs analyze behavior and raise or lower that person’s “score” based on a formula. While the high scorers are given full scholarships and ample employment opportunities, the low scores are left struggling. Fortunately, Imani’s home is only a “trial,” and there are still unscored amongst the majority of the scored. The unscored are treated as outcasts while the scored struggle to maintain or rise from their scores.
Imani, once one of the “nineties”, finds her score plummeting one day because of her best friend’s love affair with an unscored, albeit by association. She finds herself stuck between friendship and maintaining her score. Being in a state of hopelessness, she finds opportunity in the Otis scholarship which does not consider scores, but on merit. She and Diego, an unscored, put their brains together to write a paper worthy of winning that scholarship. Both Imani and Diego struggle finding what’s morally right as both sides have strong arguments. While Imani and Diego duke it out with debates, the principal and Diego’s mother (an established lawyer) have fights of their own–based on backstabbing rather than discussion. Imani sees opportunity in Diego, hoping to uncover a scandal so that her score would rise again.
Also unlike many dystopias which are generally thought to be completely absurd or mere figments of imagination, I can actually see Scored happening…and it might be for the better. Generally, a reader is fairly certain going into a dystopia knowing that it is also a satire and the societies in dystopians ought to be avoided–Scored doesn’t do that. Because Scored isn’t so black and white, good versus evil, it is amongst one of the most thought provoking, insightful young adult dystopian novels I’ve come across.
One of my peeves is that the story’s themes are served so blatantly, taking away the need to think from the reader, albeit also making the goals of the novel explicitly clear. It is clear that McLaughlin wants us to throw away our illusions of right answers. A large chunk of the story unfolds as a debate stage for Imani and Diego, with both sides raising good points, with no solid conclusion. What makes both of them admirable is they are not scared to admit their faults, they are not only intelligent but open-minded unlike the “adults” in the novel who just want to sue each other.
I have issues with the ending. Unlike the host of other hot new YA dystopians, Scored is not a series, and therefore pace is left unusually fast, while writing is kept concise. I usually get impaitent towards the end, but it seems McLaughlin is even more eager to wrap up the novel than I. The romance bit slapped me in the face in the last few pages, in the most unexpected way. I though Laughlin ripped out a few pages from a romance novel and threw it into the last few pages in efforts to make a happy ending. I picked up Scored because it was a short read and I was looking for a one-shot instead of a series, perhaps this is why Scored felt rushed compared to the other YA dystopian novels I’ve read. While I admire the message, the characters are a bit lacking–especially Imani’s best friend Cary. Aside from being a rebel, Cary never does redeem herself from her “indecencies.” Writing was on the simplistic side, but also powerful at times. Overall, an enjoyable read with a powerful message, but I can’t help thinking there was so much more potential to be explored.