The concept behind McLaughlin’s third novel is strong: a hypervigilant 1984- style society that assigns its citizens scores upon which their entire future depends. Imani LeMonde is a high school senior whose every action has been taken with that score in mind—from the friends she makes to the grades she maintains and even the thoughts she has about “lowbies” and the “unscored,” since Score Corp’s cameras can read lips and analyze facial expressions. However, when her association with a rebellious childhood friend sends Imani’s score plummeting, and an unscored classmate, Diego, wants to collaborate on a school project, she begins to question the system. McLaughlin (Cycler) tries hard to incorporate big themes into Imani’s story: the power of individuals versus groups, injustice and oppression, the human tendency to follow authority. But the story bogs down when the author—through Imani—focuses too much on those issues instead of on building romantic tension between Imani and Diego, as well as her conflict with the manipulative school principal. The story feels more like a lecture in human psychology than a satisfying journey. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
VOYA - Liz Sundermann
In the near future, ScoreCorp has provided underprivileged towns with a pilot of their soon-to-be ubiquitous Score program. Through big brother-esque surveillance, the program is supposed to level the achievement field and ensure that people from all classes have an equal shot at a bright future. Imani is a high school senior who is poised to take full advantage of the program. She is from a poor family, but has achieved the admirable score of 92enough to get her a scholarship so she can fulfill her dream of becoming a marine biologist and saving the fragile ecosystem of her hometown. Then her best friend's score plummets, tearing her own down with it, and she is forced to re-evaluate the Score and what she thinks about the people in lower brackets, as well as those who have opted out of the program. Most dystopian fiction takes place within an established totalitarian regime, but Scored allows readers to witness the very first stages of a changing society. It is even possible that, due to the actions of Imani and her unscored classmate Diego, the program will never fully launch. This twist is enough to recommend this book to dystopia readers. The author manages to keep the book fairly light in tone and the action progresses swiftly. Imani and her classroom experiences feel true, and the science fiction elements are at a minimum. Scored is a quick read that may provide intellectual stimulation for those who are not actively seeking it. Reviewer: Liz Sundermann
Everyone is a number in a dystopian near-future in which lives are determined by a corporation's surveillance-driven scores.
Imani LeMonde has grown up under the watchful cameras of Score Corp, a software company promising access to advancement opportunities for those with high-enough scores. When her best friend Cady's score plummets, Cady becomes a liability. If Imani can keep her score over 90 until she graduates, she gets to go to college—otherwise, she can't afford a future. The prospect of freedom through college means being under constant corporate surveillance, making it risky for her to see Cady or Diego, an intelligent yet unscored classmate. When Diego wants to partner with Imani for an essay assignment requiring the scored students to write persuasively against the score and the unscored to argue for it, Imani's score-quest leads her into playing both sides while trying to decide which one is hers. McLaughlin (Recycler, 2009, etc.) keeps the heavy, philosophical ideas married to the characters, thus preventing the story from becoming a preachy rant. Diego's flaws and privilege along with the tension of Imani's final score looming overhead complicate what would otherwise be an open agenda.
The bold, aggressive narrative condemns both No Child Left Behind–style testing and current financial policies, cautioning about what could happen to social mobility in the face of stark inequity.(Science fiction. 13 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—In Imani LeMonde's New England town, students are rated on various skills via computer "eyes." A high score ensures a full college scholarship and a lucrative career. Imani has had 90s for a long time, while her friend Cady is in the 70s. Then, Cady is caught having a relationship with an "unscored," and her score plunges; by association, Imani's plummets as well. Without a high number, Imani will not qualify for a scholarship, and her family cannot afford college. She begins investigating ways to improve her rating in the last months before graduation and realizes there isn't one. When her history teacher presents the class with an essay contest to win a scholarship, Imani is intrigued—until he reveals the topic: the "unscored" students will write essays defending ScoreCorp's methods, and the scored students will do the opposite. Imani frets that writing this essay will drop her score even lower, and when Diego, an interesting "unscored" boy, approaches her about writing the essay with dual points of view, her dilemma deepens further. The idea of students' futures being based on something that is supposed to equalize all social groups but instead pushes them apart is an interesting one. Unfortunately, McLaughlin's execution falls flat. The futuristic world she's created is not fleshed out, the only fully described detail being the camera "eyes." The third-person narration keeps readers at a distance so that any connection to the characters and their emotions and fates is limited. Mild cursing and sexual references mark this book for older readers as will the complex explanation of the science behind ScoreCorp's technology. In a vast sea of YA dystopian novels, this one does not stand out.—Lauren Newman, Northern Burlington County Regional Middle School, Columbus, NJ