Part dystopia, part medical-ethics sci fi, Slated by Teri Terry was never going to make me break my nearly-iron-cast rule of not reading a trilogy until the final book is at least written, if not published. Not because it doesn't sound intriguing: it's about a future British society wherein terrorists are trying to wrench freedom back from the government. They sometimes recruit teenage members, and when these adolescent terrorists are caught, instead of being executed they are "slated," their memories erased and their capability for being violent removed from their brain. The story of Kyla, who was slated, tells how she begins to figure out she's not exactly like other Slated kids—and what that might mean to society.
I just didn't want to start an unfinished trilogy.
I'm sort of torn, anyway, about the new outpouring of sci-fi, dystopian-esque series being released (the whirlwind response to the success of The Hunger Games I believe). Dystopian novels: one of my favorite genres, so you'd think such a deluge of stories would be thrilling. But somehow it feels like so many, and written because it is The Genre of The Moment, dilute the power of an approach to storytelling that should disturb you right down to your bones. And by disturb I don't mean "shocking because of violence." Instead, a strong dystopian novel takes a current issue we are grappling with and asks, what if (the always-great question of any good literature) we push forward with this? What if the only change is further implementation? Most of the new dystopias aren't built on this question. Cool concepts, quite often. But when you finish them you don't leave feeling like your worldview has shifted.
Dystopias should terrify you, just a little.
But as I needed to read it for our teen summer reading program (it is one of the books on the 2014 Beehive List), my iron-clad rules and my doubts about the genre didn't really matter.
Plus, when I researched a little bit, I discovered that the second book is already published (we just didn't have it yet) and the third is being released in May. So I won't have to re-read the first book to remember all the important details.
The intriguing part of Slated to me is that basic concept: if all of your memories are taken away, who are you? When they wake up from the medical procedure, the slated teenagers are mostly like babies. They have to relearn everything, eating and walking and speaking. Eventually, they learn enough that they can be placed with families, who continue teaching them how to live in the world. To control any propensity for violence or sadness, they wear a "Levo" on their arm, a medical device that causes them to black out if their emotions become too intense.
In the medical center where she was slated, Kyra was problematic. It took her nearly a year to be ready to leave, and the care of the most senior physician. When she finally leaves, she meets her new family: two parents, and a sister named Amy. As she adjusts to regular life in a suburb of London, she starts learning things about herself that the slating might not have erased. She makes a few friends, and begins to understand her new mom (whom she initially thinks of as the Dragon Lady...which made me laugh because my kids say I give them a Dragon Lady face when I am angry). She continues with a talent she discovered in the medical center: she is an excellent artist, although she draws far better with her left hand (even though some part of her knows that is forbidden). And she finds out that running outside is much better than the treadmill runs she did in the hospital. Especially when she's running by Ben. Whom she might like.
The underlying "what if" in Slated, in addition to the medical technology, is this question: what if the terrorist's motivations are correct, even if their methods are too violent? Is the government's extreme treatment of the youth terrorists too extreme and controlling? How much control should a government even have? And if the treatment really is justified, are they using it on the correct people?
Despite my initial reluctance, I found that I was fascinated with this story. Perhaps partly because it is not too far-flung into the future. The society feels recognizable, even if it's fairly changed from our time. Not just recognizable, but possible. No one wants bombs and violent deaths caused by extremists. But of course, at what cost, peace? Is it worth exchanging freedom for security? What if we take it too far?
I'm excited to see how this story continues. Also glad I don't have to wait very long.