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The Barcode Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn, Reviewed by Ty Hensley

The Barcode Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
This teen thriller rides the cutting edge in a sci-fi fantasy about conformity, identity and freedom. The setting is the near future, and anyone coming of age seventeen receives a bar code tattoo. It’s a rite of passage and it’s the be-all and end-all of identity.
The bar code tattoo. Everybody’s getting it. It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity. But what if you say no? What if you don’t want to become a code? For Kayla, this one choice changes everything. She becomes an outcast in her high school. Dangerous things happen to her family. There’s no option but to run…for her life.
Individuality vs. conformity. Identity vs. access. Freedom vs. control. The bar code tattoo.
Have you ever sensed that what everyone else does is wrong? People influence us to do things we never planned to do. Peer pressure is an extremely well-played subject in Suzanne Weyn’s novel The Barcode Tattoo, the first in an amazing three-part series that deals with trying to fight your way through life, while still believing your opinions. The main character, Kayla Reed, must deal with a futuristic America that requires its citizens to receive a bar code on their wrist upon their seventeenth birthday. The dystopian society she lives in influences diverse setting, fascinating themes, and interesting plot in the novel, all components I liked and was pleased with.
The first part to the novel I enjoyed was the diverse setting, which slowly developed, and that was very appealing to me. The first place that seemed to stand out to me in the novel was the Adirondack Mountains, in New York, USA. It was a very important location to Kayla Reed, and the small group against bar code tattooing, Decode, which she was very involved with. Kayla always seemed to be stuck in her town and her school, which she disliked. After she escaped the town and headed to the mountain range, the setting was very diverse, and expressed vividly in the novel. The tone kept shifting between sad and boring, to frightening and active. Instances include a time where Kayla went from a slow and developing fight between her mother, to a quick and frantic moment to put out a fire. The author created a gem by using the unique setting and changing tone, both parts I enjoyed in the novel.
Secondly, I liked the fascinating themes in the novel, which I think are very interesting, and are very usual for dystopian novels. The central point in the novel is “who should we trust”, and is a very important topic. In the novel, Kayla Reed has very few friends, and learns later on that she cannot trust some of them. In today’s world, as well, there are few people whom are trustable, but that is our decision to consider someone not able to trust. There is a lot of conflict displayed between Kayla and the people around her, and she tends to be fought and chased by the likes of her former friends, Zekeal, Nedra, and many others who she doesn’t know. The overall point of the novel is certainly revealed through the theme, and I can say that I was very pleased with the theme.
The third part, and my favorite part, of the novel was how well the plot was conveyed. The plot had an effect on me, mostly because it was rapidly changing, and I enjoyed that. Kayla Reed had many instances of a psychic-like flash forwarding, like how she predicted meeting Eutonah, a resistance leader in the Adirondack Mountains, who is against the dictatorship of Global-1 (they enforce bar code tattoos, and also rule many countries in the world, like America and China.) The whole novel climaxed around the time a fight between her old friend, Zekeal, and her boyfriend, Mfumbe, started to fight over Kayla, who watched, and was injured. The novel had a very interesting plot, and I really adored the fact the plot developed successfully.
All things considered, I loved the novel, and I really wish to read the other two books in the Barcode series. I really want to know if the visions that Kayla had become true, and what happens to the group she is in afterwards! I recommend the book to young adults, and even as a book for classes to read and discuss because it is filled with action, sorrow, and really good uses of vocabulary. Kayla Reed is a very outstanding and strong young adult, and she proves herself by holding on even after tragedy. Through the incredible use and display of diverse setting, fascinating themes, and interesting plot, Suzanne Weyn created a very cool, worthwhile novel and series in The Barcode Tattoo.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Reviewed by Ty Hensley

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.
Who hasn’t regretted something in life? Haven’t we all? Laurie Halse Anderson perfectly displays regret in her book Speak, which deals with the problems of being unnoticed in life, and never being able to truly express life the way we believe, due to other people troubling our being. Set in the same world we live in, fictionally, the novel tells the account of a girl who has no place in life, and is trying to make life better by hiding from fears after a terrible incident occurs. Basically, I gladly adored the novel; I most liked, however, the theme, plot, and unique use of grammar and vocabulary.
Firstly, I liked the interesting themes shown in the book, which I believe are relatable to many people. What do we regret in life is the main question portrayed in Speak. In the novel, Melinda Sordino faces personal tragedy, and throughout the book, tries to better life by coming out about her feelings. Obviously, this concept is relevant today, as drunken parties are becoming more of an effect on teenage life. This theme is mostly overused, as is proven by media, and overall teenage influence, because this is a strongly opposed subject. Certainly, the concept of the novel is unique in its own right, and by today’s standards, very relatable by way of many people.
The plot was a second part I liked in this novel. The internal conflict was very deep, and one of the most important components in the novel. Melinda often wondered to herself, and really couldn’t speak up for herself much. However, the external conflict acted well with the character portrayed, as such being a quiet and lonely person, who was constantly searching for a place to get away. The book seemed to climax around the end, especially when a scene erupted between a former rival and herself. Uniquely, the book showed me a type a plot I’d never read before, and I think it was a very potent part of the novel.
The third part of the novel that I appreciated was the interesting grammar misuse and vocabulary choice. The choice of words were interesting because they seemed a little low leveled in comparison to many other books recommended for teenagers. There is a lot of usage of conversation in the novel, which made for a distinctive way of connecting to the reader by allowing feeling part of the dialogue while reading. The novel is written almost to the point of feeling like another character thanks to the author’s word choice and syntax.
Overall, I utterly adored the novel, and I feel as if I can read many times over again. I feel the ending was unclear, but stated perfectly to fit the character’s persona. I recommend to teenagers, young adults, or anyone who has felt unwanted in life or school, as it will help many people relate to the situations in the novel. Melinda Sordino was a relatable and acutely understandable main character who decides to find her voice after being used by friends and family. Through the wonderful use of motivating theme, interesting plot, and unique grammar and vocabulary, Laurie Halse Anderson created one of the most powerful books for its time.