Terri Terry's debut novel, Slated, is set in 2054, in London which is ruled by the Central Coalition. The Coalition government came into power after a devastating economic collapse in the 2020's and demonstrations and terrorist acts committed by students. The Coalition is the product of the merging of two sides; the Law and Order movement which became the Lorders and the Freedom UK which wanted to rehabilitate young criminals. When the ability to erase memories was discovered, the two groups merged, resulting in a country ruled by the Lorders.
Sixteen year old Kyla has been "Slated" - that is, her memory wiped clean. Like every Slated person, Kyla is forced to wear a Levo device on her wrist. The Levo interacts with a chip implanted in the Slated teen's brain, detecting their mood. When mood levels are either extremely low or high, the wearer receives a zap that causes them to black out or have seizures. Any attempts to remove the Levo result in death. Slated teens can only have the Levo removed when they turn twenty-one.
After being Slated, teens are kept in hospital for six months where they are re-educated before being released to live with a brand new family. Kyla's new mom is Sandra Armstrong-Davis, whose father William Adam M. Armstrong eliminated the gangs threatening British society in the 2020's. Sandra's parents were killed in an act of terrorism. Kyla's new dad, David Davis, seems very kindly at first but Kyla soon grows suspicious of him. Her new older sister is nineteen year old Amy, who has a boyfriend, Jazz.
Kyla attends Lord William's School with her sister Amy who is behind a grade after being Slated. Kyla is tested and is put at grade level, something that is also very unusual. During this time Kyla is being watched over by several people called "Watchers" including Mrs. Ali who follows Kyla around at school.
Kyla has no idea why she was Slated. Although she's been told that all her memories and her personality have been wiped clean, Kyla knows that she is different. She's has been experiencing nightmares, which kept her hospitalized an extra three months, post-Slating. These nightmares seem to contain information from her life prior to Slating, although Kyla can't be certain. Kyla also discovers that she can draw using her left hand, and that she remembers how to drive. She also notices that when she gets angry, her Levo does not seem to work. Kyla wants to know why she was Slated and she wants to know who her family was before. Did they not want her? Do they know what has happened to her. The story that Slated tells is of Kyla's journey of self-discovery and truth.
Shortly after arriving home, Kyla meets Ben Nix at a group therapy meeting for Slateds. Ben also attends the same high school with Kyla, where he is in some of her classes. Ben encourages her to come running with him and Kyla discovers that running counters the affect of the Levo, allowing both of them to be more like their real selves. Kyla finds herself attracted to tall, handsome Ben but thinks that maybe another Slated girl, Tori is his girlfriend. Kyla like all Slateds has been told to stay away from boys until she is twenty-one.
When Tori goes missing, Ben learns, to Kyla's horror, that she was "returned" like an old pair of shoes. Soon Ben and Kyla discover that not only are Slated teens disappearing, but also Naturals too. Then Kyla witnesses Phoebe, a Natural who has been bullying Kyla, being removed from school by the Lorders. Shortly after this, her beloved art teacher, Mr. Gianelli is also taken away by Lorders in front of the entire school.
Kyla is taken by Jazz to meet Mac, a twenty-something who has access to a computer. He tells Kyla about the many websites which parents and family are using in an attempt to locate missing children. From Mac's search, Kyla discovers the truth about her identity, but few clues to her past. Who was she? Why was she Slated?
Later Kyla takes Ben to meet Mac who introduces them to Aiden. Aiden works for MIA = Missing In Action, trying to locate people who were taken illegally by the government. They want to identify these missing people so they can expose the government and stop it. Some missing people are taken to be Slated. Some are taken by AGT (Anti-Government Terrorists) to try to disable or remove their Levos. This latter idea becomes very attractive to Ben. After an incident in which his Levo prevents him from protecting Kayla, he becomes obsessed with removing it - an act that could result in his death.
As more of her past reveals itself to Kyla and as she is confronted by someone from her past, Kyla must make the decision to either stay in the present and live her life as it is, or confront who she was in the past and perhaps return to that life. Kyla doesn't want to go back to her past but will she have a choice?
Slated is a good novel with a well developed storyline that holds the reader's interest to the very end. Kyla and Ben live in what is essentially a totalitarian society, where any resistance to authority is now useless. What was initially a technique developed to rehabilitate criminals, is now one used to control anyone who resists the authority of the state. When Mr. Gianelli protests, in a very mild way, the disappearance of Phoebe by drawing her portrait in art class, he finds himself carted off by the Lorders. Kyla finds herself watched constantly and repeatedly warned by Mrs. Ali that she is in danger of being "returned" when she asks questions. How better to put down opposition than by wiping your opponent's memory clean. How easy to prevent any sort of rebellion against what is happening by forcing these "rehabilitated" young people to wear a device that shocks them should they experience depression or anger? Terry has created a future world that is entirely believable and possible - a police state based on events which are all too common today - economic collapse and widespread anger.
As Kyla learns more about her new world, she realizes that she will need to learn how to live according to the Lorders rules. Even with her doctor, Dr. Lysander, who invented Slating, Kayla knows Lysander will recognize when she is lying so she must be careful to tell only part of the truth and never reveal all of it. It a psychological game of cat and mouse even though Lysander seems to suggest to Kyla that she is on her side.
Terry does a great job of portraying how Kyla's relationship with her new mother blossoms and how the initial impression of her new parents and of Dr. Lysander gradually change thoughout the novel. At first her dad seems kind and warm, while her mother earns the nickname "dragon lady". However, it is her mother who saves her life when things go terribly wrong with Ben while her father threatens her if she doesn't conform.
There's a touch of romance between Ben and Kyla that is sweet and filled with many tender moments. Kyla is still haunted by what she thinks is Ben's love for Tori. For the most part Ben is a rather boring character until the very end of the novel, when he chooses a drastic course of action. His plainness is explained by the Levo toning him down so that we don't see the real Ben until he starts taking medication that counters the effect of the Levo.
The cliff-hanger at the end means we have to wait until the next book, Fractured, is published in September, 2013!
Slated by Teri Terry
New York: Nancy Paulsen Books 2012