“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, November 14, 2011

Scored ▪ YA fiction

by Lauren McLaughlin
Available now  Random House Books for Young Readers  Ages 12 and up
You already know you're being watched. But do you know you're being scored?
"The most rounded, thought-provoking and pulse-pounding exploration of the surveillance society I've yet read." - Cory Doctorow
Story: 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, everyone is a number in this dystopian near-future.  Surveillance cameras track your every move while a software program scores you on your mental fitness. Score above 90 and you’re set for life--a full college scholarship and the career of your dreams. Score below 75 and you’re on your own.  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 foreseeable future.
Story behind the story:  Here's what Lauren McLaughlin has to say about the inspiration for SCORED: "I was living in the Hackney section of London a few years ago, a neighborhood that would later make itself known as one of the locations of the London riots. Not a posh neighborhood. Every day as I walked to the park for a picnic lunch, I’d notice piles of shatterproof glass on the ground and a few cars with smashed-in windows. The cars that thieves couldn’t steal, they’d merely break into and take whatever they could find. Then one day I noticed there hadn’t been any piles of glass or smashed in windows for a while. I also noticed on that day that someone had installed surveillance cameras up and down the street. They were obviously working. The thieves had moved on. I remember thinking this was a perfect test case for the effectiveness of surveillance in crime prevention. And the conclusion was obvious: put surveillance cameras everywhere and you could eliminate street crime entirely. This was a lightbulb moment for me. I’d always been more or less anti-surveillance until then. I had opposed the Patriot Act’s warrantless wiretapping and, like many, I worried that we were “sleepwalking into a surveillance society.” But it wasn’t until that moment that I understood how seductive surveillance could be. I wanted those cameras there. Despite everything I feared about government overreach, corporate snooping and the vast potential for abuse that surveillance affords, I wanted more cameras. I wanted them everywhere. That’s when I became truly frightened of surveillance--not because it would be forced on us by a domineering government or a corporate giant, but because we would invite it. That was the genesis of Scored."

"The most rounded, thought-provoking and pulse-pounding exploration of the surveillance society I've yet read." - Cory Doctorow

"A tense and chilling look at a near future that's all too recognizable. Scored will bring out the rebel in every reader." -Scott Westerfeld, author of Goliath

"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." - Kirkus

"Most dystopian fiction takes place within an established totalitarian regime, but Scored allows readers to witness the very first stages of a changing society." - VOYA

Interested in sharing SCORED with teens?  Here's a discussion guide to help you get the talk going.

FYI:  All the review copies for this title have been sent.  Please check back and see the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say...


Tricia C. said...

This is an intriguing addition to the dystopian fiction genre. The plot kept me wanting to find out what was going to happen and, even more importantly, kept me thinking. I think this book will be a hit with my older students - 7th and 8th grade. It isn't a long book (226 pages), and I did wish that some of relationships had been more developed. Not sure the kids will notice the lack of depth though. Overall, a readable book with a fascinating premise. I give it 4.5 out of 5.

Anonymous said...

Scored is the type of story that really makes you think. It offers so many questions that will lead to amazing discussions. It's relevant and thought provoking. The story moves along quickly and is hard to put down. I was drawn in immediately and couldn't wait to see what happened next. The only concern I had was with the language. Obviously, many parents would be disturbed by the use of the "F" word so many times. I also felt the discussions on porn were a bit of a concern. However, for the right age group, this book will feel real. These are obviously themes and words that they are aware of and hear in their daily lives even in school hallways. I'd love to see a sequel to this book. I think the ending lends itself to one.

Since I have to "score" this, I would give it a 5!

loonyhiker said...

This seemed like a modern day 1984 book and I loved it. This book would be great for middle school and high school students to read. I think it would be a great class novel because it lends itself to many great discussions. Topics could include: dystopia, Big Brother, scoring, relationships, academics, scholarships, peer pressure, and loyalty. I’m sure that students would be able to come up with more. I also think this book would interest boys as well as girls and causes both to think deeper into what ifs. I would highly recommend this for a classroom or a school library.
I would give this book 5 out of 5.

Pat Hensley
Greenville, SC

PLLoggerR said...

Scored, by Lauren McLaughlin, forces us to think about our growing use of surveillance, ranking and peer groups. Imani, a senior in high school, has grown up knowing that she is constantly being watched by the “eyes” placed around town and in her school. A high score will get her into college free, a low score could place her in some menial job. All this scoring is necessary to level the playing field—the middle class has collapsed and many see no way to move up. Enter Score Corp and their computer program to constantly rate teen-ages in five important areas – peer group, impulse control, congruity, diligence and rapport that will determine a person’s success.

Scored definitely opens brings up many options for discussions—peer groups, rankings, testing, societal norms, friendships and family. Sure to appeal to teenagers and many classroom teachers for the opportunities to book offers.

A Picnic Basket 4.

Director, Peacham Library

Julia Pitau said...

Over the past couple of years I have read several dystopian books that were good, even great reads. I felt Scored fell short by a long shot. After reading over half of the book, I still had trouble caring for the characters and the problems they were facing. The language seemed forced; especially the use of foul language. For these reasons I give the book a Picnidc Rating of 2.5: Not worth building a picnic around and read under certain circumstances.

Denair Charter Academy

Anonymous said...

I love me a good dystopian story, but this one fell a little short.

In this dystopia, your "score" determines everything. Talk about big brother (and the author made sure to shout-out the classic dystopian novels '1984' and 'Brave New World').

The novel was fine...but it felt very preachy towards the end when Imani and Diego (an unscored) work together to see what the score really does to people. The ending was also very sudden and anticlimactic.

3 out of 5

Heather Hart
Librarian-Newport Beach Public Library

Lemon the Duck said...

This was a page-turning plot for sure. Discussions in classrooms and amongst peers could be intense!
These things helped me look beyond some of the drawbacks such as the ending (a little too abrupt) and lack of character development in some characters.
The language and some topics are geared towards an upper YA audience.
Still, I thought this was a very relevant and thought-provoking story.
I give this a 4 out of 5 for upper YA audience.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School

Sandra Stiles said...

As a teacher, I’m always trying to get my students to work hard. We all know that the state test scores determine so much for a student. It looks like someone finally wondered what it would be like if we went to the extreme and came up with this awesome book. Imagine a world where you are continuously watched and judged. Imani is a teenager who has bought into the whole ScoreCorp garbage. Why? She has a high score. Everything affects your scores, who you are friends with, who you date, who you work with or help in school. There is no privacy. Step out of line and you could ruin your whole life. Of course, isn’t it funny that ScoreCorp is the one in control? Only the rich can afford to go to college. If you want a chance then your parents must agree to have you scored. Imani’s score drops. She is paired with Diego to complete a project. Diego doesn’t have a score because his family is filthy rich. This pairing up opens Imani’s eyes to many things that are going on around her.

I have to say this would be a wonderful book to read together in class. The debates that could occur would be great. I could see picking an issue from the book and using Socratic circles to discuss those issues. I guess I see it this way because I am a teacher and we see so much pressure put on teachers and students about test scores. I think this is a book that parents, teachers and students will enjoy.
I hope there is more from this author on this topic. If not I look forward to reading more of her work.
I give it a 5 out of 5

kheres said...

I haven't had a chance to read this book yet but gave it to one of my teachers to read. She likes books like Barcode Tattoo and is intrigued by the reality that something scarily (is that a word?) close to this could happen. She enjoyed the book and said it kept her thinking the whole time. My students love dystopian reads right now.

Christina said...

Scored is 1984 for the 21st century. This book should get teens to start thinking about the privacy they are willingly giving up with Facebook posts and Tweets that offer up every detail of their day. I enjoyed Scored. I was sucked into the plot right away. I do agree that the ending could be more satisfying, but it is well-written and thought provoking. I give it 4.5 out of 5.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this thought-provoking book. I spent much of my reading time comparing the ranking system in the book to our growing use of test score rankings. Of this is a very extreme example. As a sixth grade teacher, I probably won't be able to use "Scored" in my class because of the language. Perhaps as a read-aloud omitting the language?
I give it 4 out of 5.

M. Battista said...

I couldn't wait to read this book. The concept was great! Unfortunately it did not live up to my expectations. The coarse language didn't feel natural to the characters. Without it, a lot of middle school students could find it on their library shelves. There was too much emphasis on the main character's skin color. I couldn't figure out how it mattered to the story. I wanted less about the homework assignment the kids were working on and more action. Overall I'd give this a Picnic Rating of 2.5.

Turlock, CA