Scored, by Lauren McLaughlin

My favorite kind of scary stories involve real, everyday things gone horribly wrong, so when I realized the subject matter of Lauren McLaughlin's Scored I was totally stoked. Brace yourself, dear readers: this is a horror novel about student test scores. Dun-DUN!

Set in the near future, Scored takes place in a decaying New England beach town. After a second Great Depression, income inequality has reached critical mass. Using constant technological surveillance that assesses everything from peer interactions to classroom focus, a company called ScoreCorp is offering “deserving” children a way out of poverty: score above 90, and you get a full-ride college scholarship and excellent career prospects. Score lower, and your future is bleak. High school senior Imani has always benefited from the program; she's a 92, and she's confident ScoreCorp is her ticket to a better life. But when her best friend's score takes a nosedive, Imani is tainted by association, and she's forced to finally question the all-seeing technology that watches (and judges) her every move.

Scored is good—really good. McLaughlin challenges her readers to think about individual versus group identity, about class and money and power, about the disproportionately long shadow high school casts over the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, Scored could have been great, and it isn't. At 226 pages, it needed to be twice as long (if not longer), and McLaughlin should have devoted those extra pages to richer character development, more complex world-building, and creating higher emotional stakes. As it is, Imani is stilted and puppet-like; she and her friends exist to give a human face to the author's exploration of ideas. They're not unpleasant, but they're never real enough to give Scored an emotional punch worthy of its intellectual one.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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