Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bay
High-stakes action combines with issues of friendship and body image in this timely and thought-provoking exploration of the intersection of technology and identity.
You can be Improved....
In a near-future world in which technology can transport you anywhere instantly, can a coded note enable you to change your body—to become taller, stronger, more beautiful? Clair is pretty sure the offer is too good to be true. But her best friend, Libby, is determined to give it a try, longing for a new, improved version of herself.
What starts as Libby’s dream turns into Clair’s nightmare when Libby falls foul of a deadly trap. With the help of Jesse, the school freak, and a mysterious—but powerful—stranger called Q, Clair’s attempt to protect Libby leads her to an unimagined world of conspiracies and cover-ups. Soon her own life is at risk, and Clair is chased across the world in a desperate race against time.
Action and danger fuel Sean Williams’ tale of technology, identity, and the lengths to which one girl will go to save her best friend.
So in the future there's this thing called the D-mat. Think: Star Trek Teleporter.
Beam me up, Scotty!
Almost everyone all over the world uses it to travel anywhere they want to all across the globe. So if you live in Denver you can go to school or work in Amsterdam. Very cool, right?
I say almost everyone uses it, because there is (of course) a group of granola crunchers (Abstainers) who refuse to step inside the D-mat for fear of...well, all kinds of conspiracy theory reasons. You know, like the people who go on and on about eating organic because all of the chemicals pumped into things.
Except, now that all kinds of diseases are on the rise, they don't sound quite as crazy anymore...do they?
Well, Clair stumbles into into the same sort of realization when she inadvertently uncovers some very unusual things happening to her best friend. Libby is Clair's popular cool counterpart, who hates the birthmark on her face. So she tries to improve herself via chain-mail like instructions that she found on the Air. The Air is basically the internet, and (most) everyone is connected to it continually through augmentations in their eyes and ears.
After Libby announces that she's tried Improvement and it worked, she sort of stops communicating with anyone. Libby's disappearance coincides with Clair and Libby's boyfriend sharing a secret kiss, so Clair isn't sure if something bad has happened to her, or if she's somehow found out about their indiscretion. Soon, however, the messages that Clair does start getting from Libby point to something more strange and sinister than just hurt feelings.
But the instructions for Improvement are just too goofy to be believed. Kind of like that crap on Facebook that someone always 'shares'.
*Insert sentimental garbage here*
Now make a wish and re-post to all of your friends.
If you believe enough, your wish will come true.
If you're not brave enough to re-post this...
Horrific things will immediately begin to happen to you and those you love!!!!!!
Nobody but crazy old ladies from church and my friends' little kids (who shouldn't have FB accounts to start with!) pass this stuff onto me.
Because everyone else in the world knows they're absolutely ridiculous.
Same thing goes for this Improvement thing that Libby tried. It basically said that you write down what you want to change about yourself, then hop around from place to place in the D-mat. The letter (or some form of it) had been circulating the Air for a while, and the vast majority of people did exactly what I do with the dorky FB posts...they sighed and scrolled on past it.
Since nobody believes Improvement is possible, that leaves very few people on the planet left for Clair to turn to for help.
Hmmm. Who does Clair know that would believe a crazy conspiracy theory?
Well, there's this one kid in her classes named Jessie that comes from a family of Abstainers (think: futuristic version of the Amish), who might be able to point her in the right direction. He's basically a social pariah, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
And speaking of desperate measures...Clair decides to try Improvement for herself. Whether or not it has any effect on her is a question that plagues her for the rest of the book, and I'm not telling you what happens. So there!
Trying Improvement and looking a bit deeper into the D-mat conspiracy leads her to meet a disembodied super-hacker with amnesia, who goes by the name Q. How does this person play into everything? Well, if you've read a lot of adult sci-fi, you'll probably be able to figure out Q's origin fairly quickly. But I think for a teen who's new to the genre it might come as more of a shock.
In the beginning, there's lots of teen drama, but after Clair teams up with Q and Jessie the story takes a more exciting turn, and leaves most of the angst behind. As far as romance goes, there are two boys in the story that Clair likes, but (for reasons I can't go into) there is no actual love triangle. I thought the plot had an interesting concept, and there was also a well thought out world to back it up. It's a good young adult sci-fi story, but I'm not sure it translates into something that adults will fall in love with. I was totally entertained the entire time I was reading it, but if you're not a fan of YA you may find some of the things that happen to be a bit too predictable.
A bonus point for the book is the body image theme that starts the story off. If I remember what it was like to be a teenager correctly (and I do! Smartass.), then this is definitely a theme worth having.
Although, I have to admit that I still nit-pick my imperfections...even at such an advanced age. About one day every month I feel bad about the way I look, and decide to try some sketchy rejuvenating cream/tool that I've seen on tv.
I usually come to my senses before I manage to give the operator my credit card number. I mean, can something really change your life for only 29.95 a month for four months?
Eh. Probably not.
Besides, part of the beauty of surviving adolescence is the knowledge that it perfection is overrated.