THE UNIDENTIFIED: dystopian YA about education tranformed into a giant, heavily sponsored game

Rae Mariz's debut YA The Unidentified is a thrilling, engaging polemic about the corporatization of kids' lives in the guise of a mystery story.

In the future, the US education system has gone bankrupt, and has been rescued by the private sector, who convert giant malls into heavily surveilled school buildings in which all education takes place as a series of sponsored games that, on the one hand, deliver tailored, creative curriculum, but, on the other, commodify all learning, social intercourse and creativity, turning it all into trends and products that are sold back to the students and the wider world.

Our plucky heroine is a girl named Kid. Kid likes mixing her own music, is a moderately successful student, but isn't anywhere near the top of the social ladder. Far from it; she's hardly got any friends at all on her profile, and is skeptical of the whole enterprise.

This makes her an ideal candidate for the school's corporate sponsors, who are anxious to reach the disaffected outsiders who are the last remaining target market. So when Kid discovers a gruesome, anti-corporatist prank and begins to investigate it, it's only natural that the sponsors would swoop in to underwrite her mystery and use it to sell a whole new package of anti-sponsor sponsored goods.

Subversive, cleverly written, challenging, and surprising, The Unidentified is a great book for young adults and the grownups who care about them, in the tradition of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies. Highly recommended.

The Unidentified