Review by: Nisha Vyas-Myall
This book brought together two things I really enjoy: political dystopia and sci-fi (something I dabble in myself as a writer- not to plug myself, but I have a short story in Holdfast Magazine's 2016 Brexit supplement and I have another story in the pipeline). When I picked up this book and read the synopsis, I knew I had to read it right away. It seemed right up my alley.
So this story follows a 16 year old girl called Kyla. When we first meet her, she's in a hospital with very little knowledge about who she is or anything about her life, save for a few scattered memories that she refuses to reveal to anyone around her. As the first few chapters unfold, we learn that she is among many people who have been Slated. Slating is a procedure where someone has all of their memories removed and assigned a new name and family, something saved for terrorists so they are given a fresh start without remaining a threat. They have a device- a Levo- attached to them that monitors their mood and provides a warning if they have any violent thoughts.
The procedure is explained for Kyla and, as a result, us in the audience. It seems pretty clear cut, but things don't quite seem right when she goes into her new life.
There is a very clear divide between those who are Slated and those who are not. Whilst the Slateds are given this treatment so that they can continue living, there is a huge stigma attached to them because it's common knowledge that they are former criminals (although not what it is they have done to have their memory wiped). Kyla ends up running headfirst into a lot of prejudice from her classmates and can only find some solace in mixing with people who have also been Slated. This seems like a very poignant social commentary on prejudice feeding itself, although I'm not sure if that was the author's intent. However, the divide between the two types of people opens Kyla up to an underground group who seem to stand against the Government. But the waters become so muddy that we all begin to question who really are the good guys. There are things about the process of Slating that don't quite add up (e.g. that the maximum age for Slating is 16), and when a few non-Slated people go "missing", Kyla goes on a mission to find out what's really going on.
The series is written in first person. Many readers find this a bit unnerving, but I'm always a fan of first person as it gives you a decent insight into the inner workings of the protagonist that you just don't get from a third person narrative, where the author is basically telling you how a person is feeling rather than the readers experiencing it for themselves. In the case of Slated, this technical point is very important. For us to truly get Kyla's sense of confusion, hostility and fear, we really need to be in her shoes. And the lack of an omnipotent narrator means that we only know what Kyla knows, so we can empathise with her. We can only trust who she trusts in that moment, because we don't have any additional information. The other thing I love about first person is that you cannot look away if the character doesn't, and there is one particularly jarring event in the story where, had this been a TV show, I would have been behind a pillow and instructing Kris to let me know when it's over. Teri Terry takes you on one hell of a rollercoaster ride in this book- her writing style is fluid and readable, with a good mixture of heaviness and levity.
The concept of Slating is hard to analyse without throwing around spoilers like confetti. Terry gives us the different aspects of the idea in pieces- why it's done, who it's done to, who is excluded, what a person needs to have done before Slating is an option. She doesn't go too much into the How, but I can't frame that as a criticism with the knowledge that there are two more books to this series. For all I know, the How could be next. I'm very curious about the mechanics of how it works, especially how the Levo device manages to monitor the brain without wiring. As I said, we learn about Slating as Kyla does, and we are far from the end.
As a fan of shows like Pretty Little Liars, I enjoy a good mystery. And this certainly is a good mystery- I say this in the present tense as this is the first in a series so, while I have my theories about what's really happening, I can't say this book has really provided any answers. If you are looking for a good read but aren't a fan of series, I probably wouldn't recommend this as you will get to the end of this and go "right, now I need to get the next book to find out what this all means!"
If you're like me and love book series, I say go out and grab a copy.