(April 1, 2005; 0-439-39562-3)
In 2025 America, everyone is getting the bar code tattoo on their wrist, containing financial and medical information. After sixteen-year-old Kayla Reed's father commits suicide and her best friend's family members are forced to move after receiving their bar codes, Kayla joins the resistance group Decode and refuses to get her tattoo when she turns seventeen. Readers encounter many cliffhangers as Kayla survives a house fire, escapes the hospital before getting tattooed, is accused of murdering her mother, hitchhikes to the Adirondacks, and wanders the wilderness sick with fever and desperate to avoid corporate and government enforcers and double agents her age. After joining a camp of resisters who are developing psychic abilities in response to the changing social and cultural environment, Kayla regains the strength to fight another day. The science fiction angle of the corporate/government powers using bar codes to weed out the unfit and uplift those with the least genetic flaws for future cloning is complemented with a discussion of how credit cards were the seeds of consumer tracking. A subplot of the elderly being euthanized in hospitals to save insurance costs is equally disturbing. Mixed in with such thought-provoking substance are some distracting subplots. A romantic triangle between Kayla and two classmates seems forced and used only to heighten suspense and move a plot that is already progressing well, and the conclusion involving people quickly evolving psychic abilities is under-explored. Teens will enjoy this book with its intriguing cover and suspense but might find the ending unsatisfying.-Julie Scordato.
School Library Journal
(February 1, 2005; 0-439-39562-3)
Gr 6 Up-It's 2025, and the thing to do on your 17th birthday is to get a bar code tattoo, which is used for everything from driver's licenses to shopping. Kayla, almost 17, resists because she hates the idea of being labeled. Then the tattoos begin to drive people to commit suicide, Kayla's father among them, and she soon finds out that the markings contain detailed information about their bearers, including their genetic code. When the government, controlled by a corporation called Global-1, makes the tattoo mandatory, Kayla joins a teen resistance movement and falls for a gorgeous guy, unaware that he's a double agent. She discovers she has some psychic ability and has confusing visions of future events. Forced to run away after being implicated in her mother's accidental death, she eventually joins other resisters hiding in the Adirondack Mountains, finds romance with an old friend, and learns to harness her psychic powers to fight Global-1 and fulfill her visions. Like M. T. Anderson's Feed (Candlewick, 2002), this novel examines issues of individuality versus conformity and individual freedom versus governmental control. Because it also deals with the ethics of enhanced genetics and cloning, it tries to cover too much territory and relies too heavily on coincidence and far-fetched plotting. Stick with Feed.-Sharon Rawlins, Piscataway Public Library, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Sarah Applegate (KLIATT Review, May 2005 (Vol. 39, No. 3))
In a book not far from the headlinesaWhat if people began to get bar codes tattooed on their arms for identification, for credit card purchasing, for movement around the country, for getting a job? This is the premise of The Bar Code Tattoo, a story about Kayla, a high school student who is beginning to get suspicious of what the bar codes are doing to her world. Her friend's father can't get a job, people are losing their homes, alienating their families and committing suicide, and she knows it is somehow connected to the bar codes. She joins a group working against the codes and against Global-1, the corporation behind the codes, and soon is inspired to fight the bar code--and to fall in love! In the end, Kayla finds herself unwittingly on the lam, separated from her friends and family but knowing in her heart that she is doing what is right. This is a great book, one that reminded me of one of my favorites, Feed by M.T. Anderson, though a little less futuristic. It would be an excellent tie-in to discuss contemporary issues of proposed US I.D. cards and civil rights, as well as corporate domination and centralization of ownership. Students will enjoy the multilayered story lines and some students will recognize the similarities to the book of Revelation, which, if you read the author's note, inspired the title. A frightening book. Category: Paperback Fiction. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Scholastic, 252p., $5.99. Ages 12 to 18.