A huge wave of dystopian novels aimed at teens is making its way on the market, attempting to cash in on the popularity of The Hunger Games. The Predicteds is one of the most recent offerings in this genre (available Sept 2011). I was actually kind of excited by this one’s arresting premise: imagine a test exists that can tell you who will commit a violent crime or become a drug addict, or become a teenage mom. How would we treat people who are predicted for these actions?
Daphne Wright has just moved to a small town whose high school students have recently been profiled with just this kind of test (which is an amazing co-incidence given that her mom helped create the test, but left the project because of moral objections over how the test was being used. You think she’d want to avoid the selected communities where the test was piloted). Not only is the town full of rednecks and a fair portion of narrow-minded citizens, all hell breaks loose once the predicted lists are released. The kicker is that Jesse, the tall, handsome guy Daphne has fallen in love with, is predicted as a violent offender. Added to that are the rumours that he stalked a former girlfiend, and accusations that he was involved in the violent assault of another girl (actually a very close friend of his). Daphne is (of course) torn between her feelings for Jesse and her fear that the charges might be true.
I have to say – part of me hated this book, and part of me very much enjoyed it. I have a feeling it will appeal to a lot of teen readers – if you liked Numbers, or series like Prettys or Gossip Girl, this might be the right read for you. The writing is uneven, but has some very nice moments like this one:
“It’s a bright Friday morning with only two weeks of school left, the briefest hint of summer freedom already in the air. The month of May is always better than real summer, because when the day is done, when the sun sets, there will still be as many summer days left as there were in the morning.” Isn’t that a nice thought? Oh – and I’m not really supposed to quote that until I check it against the completed manuscript, but I can’t be bothered.
What really rubbed me the wrong way was the obviousness of it all. Once the mystery was cleared up, there weren’t any questions, or profound thoughts to hold on to. It essentially was another example of segregation – something that’s been covered by other books, but much more effectively. Moreover, the test made no sense. I accept that in a dystopian novel one has to let some improbabilities go – and just assume that in the future things work differently, or that they’ve found technological fixes to certain problems. But I honestly can’t imagine a test that would tell you someone is destined to become a teen mom. Isn’t that more down to the frailty of birth control sometimes? Whatever happened to chance? Unfortunately, I found it all very muddled and poorly explained.
I also found the book to be infuriating in terms of the judgements it cast out. The main character believes (and the plot seems to bear out) that these small town yokels are narrow-minded and quick to ostracize. Maybe that’s how it is in small towns – but aren’t there good things too? It seemed unrelentingly negative to me. Also, the main character is extremely critical of shopping and clothes, but is constantly supplying us with details about people’s clothing and how their style works or doesn’t work. In general, she has a massive superiority complex, and I have a hard time imagining why some of these people would give her the time of day. She is constantly snipping at them in her head, but still spends all her time with them. I’m quite sure that in another book the character would realize a) that these people are aweful and not worth spending time with, even if they are popular; or b) that they’re not so bad, and that she’s being a conceted ass for thinking so. She sort of comes to both realizations – but again, I found it muddled.
Bottom line is, if you’re looking for a dystopian book with a nice romantic storyline, I would recommend Matched by Ally Condie well before this one (that a was a very clever book!).