Friday, September 19, 2008

Sleator's Test

Ann lives in a futuristic societry where the traffic and pollution are incredibly awful, and everyone's future is completely dependent on how they score on the XCAS test. Her father, who apparently did not do well, works with poor people who cannot afford health care. The man who owns the building in which he works also produces the XCAS test. Lep, a Thai classmate of Ann's lives and works in the same building and is being given answers to the test, since his English skills are limited. When another employee of the building starts following Ann around and threatening her, she investigates and discovers some evil motives behind the test.

This was disappointing, mainly because I wanted something more. The cover was reminiscent of Guy Montag's firemen's emblem, with the salamanders, and I wanted a brilliantly written and insightful book on what adhering to strict testing and losing focus on actual learning and critical thinking can do to a society. I usually love Sleator's work, but he is not Ray Bradbury. His prose tends to be dryer, less descriptive, and in this book, his depictions of characters are very flat. The daughter of the test monger is slick and superficial; Lep is long suffering and noble; Ann is rather confused and ineffectual. The plot has holes in it, too many coincidences, and the society is not fully developed. I like the idea of students everywhere rising up and refusing to take the test, and alerting everyone to do this by text message was a good idea, but revolution like that can not be done the day before, and would need to be on a national, not local, scale to be effective. I will probably buy this, but won't recommend it for discussion groups.

Mary Hogan's Pretty Face was quite fun, until page 192. Hayley, who is overweight and nagged by her mother constantly, gets an opportunity to spend the summer in Italy. While there, she comes to terms with her weight and loses her virginity in a graphic but completely boring scene. What? If that had been left out, I would have gotten this book, as its blend of food issues and travel to Italy would have been welcomed by my readers. Now I know why my public library passed on this one.

Cast and Cast's Chosen turned out to be the third in a series. Since it is about vampyres (yick on the spelling), I may have to hunt down the first, but since it is by St. Martin's press (noted romance novel publisher) I may just forget. What I scanned of the third one didn't have anything unusally appealing.

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