Pass, and have it made—fail, and suffer the consequences. A master of teen thrillers tests readers’ courage in an edge-of-your-seat novel that echoes the fears of exam-takers everywhere.
Ann, a teenage girl living in the security-obsessed, elitist United States of the very near future, is threatened on her way home from school by a mysterious man on a black motorcycle. Soon, she and a new friend are caught up in a vast conspiracy of greed involving the megawealthy owner of a school testing company. Students who pass his test have it made; those who don’t disappear . . . or worse. Will Ann be next?
For all those who suspect standardized tests are an evil conspiracy, here’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller that really satisfies.
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William Sleator is considered a master of science fiction and thrillers for middle-grade readers and young adults. R. L. Stine calls Sleator “one of my favorite young adult writers,” and Publishers Weekly says his work is “the best that science fiction can offer.” Sleator divides his time between homes in Boston and rural Thailand.
Grade 7–9—In the (seemingly) not-so-distant future, the divide between the rich and the poor is greater than ever, with the wealthy having private helicopters and mansions, and the poor stuck in endless traffic and living in projects. Standardized tests determine which kids will be allowed to go to college and have a decent life. Ann's father works for Warren, the slumlord who owns the projects; when he tries to get the residents to rebel, Tony, the building manager, threatens Ann. Warren also owns the company that publishes the tests and has connections in Washington. Lep, a Thai immigrant, is asked to do illegal and dangerous things for Tony in exchange for the test answers. When Lep and Ann discover how much corruption is behind the tests, they decide to take action, thus putting their lives in danger. While the characters are somewhat flat and the writing is often repetitious, the plot is fact paced with short chapters that end in cliff-hangers, allowing the book to be a good read for moderately reluctant readers. Teens will be able to draw comparisons to contemporary society's shift toward standardized testing and ecological concerns, and are sure to appreciate the spoofs on NCLB. Although the novel wraps up too neatly, it still may be an inspiration for teens wishing to change their political/social environment.—Marie C. Hansen, New York Public Library
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