engaging dystopian with strong character building
RATED follows six teens in alternating points-of-view as they navigate a dystopian future. In this society, your life is dictated by your rating. The higher your rating, the more elite your life can be with better housing, better healthcare, etc. Lower ratings can mean homelessness, a lack of employment, and problems with just about everything. The six students are at Maplethorpe, an elite school where low ratings will get you kicked out. As a student, your ratings are updated constantly and everyone can see them- your grades, interactions with teachers and other students, and basically any/everything you do can raise or lower your rating.
Bex is an overacheiver with many extracurriculars and no free time, but that positivity is reflected in her score. She has recently been assigned to tutor Chase, an athlete who might lose his scholarship if his score drops much lower, and who it is hinted has a learning disability. Another athlete is Hana, a figure skater who wants to win the Olympics, but she is hindered by a very severe eating disorder. She has recently connected with Tamsin, a girl who reads Tarot cards for money and has very little respect for the school- but is smart enough to keep her score just high enough to keep from being expelled.
Then, there is Noah, a loner who loves photography and his sister, who is sick and needs a bone marrow transplant. He will soon meet Javi, a professional video game player who lives with his Abuela and siblings. Javi doesn't interact much with other people his age in the real world, but that is about to change.
After a graffiti message painted on the school declares that ratings are not real, they each begin finding notes with a cryptic message on them. As the school and society seems determined to cover up the message, there appears to be something bigger going on, and the teens will have to work together to figure it out.
What I loved: The characters were all interesting and well-constructed. Despite having so many points-of-view, it was easy to follow and remember each of them- which is not an easy feat! The mystery around the messages also adds some intrigue to the plot. The strongest parts of the book were about the characters though and their diversity in thought and world, dealing with issues including mental illness (eating disorder, parent with alcoholism), poverty/elitism, parental expectations, learning disabilities, and sexuality (LGBT representation in the main characters).
What left me wanting more: The book was a little scattered, and I think needed to either be longer or have fewer main characters so that we could focus on things a little more. There were some gaps in the plot that seemed just to come out of nowhere, to the point where I wondered if whole chapters were just missing, but I think this was done to help keep the pace faster. I also felt like the world-building was a little fuzzy. There was a lot of character-building, but we know relatively less about the world they are in, when it is, or how it came to be. Maybe this will be fleshed out in future books. Either a longer book or fewer characters to allow for a deeper plot would have helped with this also.
Final verdict: Overall, this is an intriguing and engaging YA dystopian that would be great for fans of UGLIES, ASH, and/or MATCHED. With great character building, this is an interesting start to a series, and I would be curious to read more in the future.