Yet another teen novel hoping to cash in on the current literary trend of young adult dystopian novels, Teri Terry’s ‘Slated’ carves out an engaging story and an interesting lead, but ultimately fails to capitalize on the potential of its great concept and instead sticks to safe, familiar star-crossed love territory.
Teri Terry’s debut novel takes place in a world where young offenders committing dangerous crimes are “slated” – their memories and personality wiped clean, their motor functions and knowledge relearned like newborn babies, and a new name assigned before they’re reintroduced into society as second-class citizens. Their second chance comes with another big proviso, though: a special tracking monitor strapped to their wrists which forcibly keeps their basic human emotions in check with painful electric currents until they’re placid and docile.
Fresh out of the slating rehabilitation process and handed over to a foster family, young teenager Kyla is an apparent former terrorist given a second chance at a peaceful life. But the questions about who she was and what her crimes were keep itching under the surface as eerie dreams that seem to provide glimpses of her erased past start to plague her, while powerful government police dubbed “the lorders” are carting off anyone who questions the system.
There’s a huge amount of existential story potential in Slated’s concept to explore the nature/nurture debate in relation to crime. Are people truly a product of their environment and upbringing, easily reset and reprogrammed with a clean slate, or are their darker impulses and moral compasses hardwired in their DNA, ready to bleed through no matter what? Slated never really explores that, content to stick with a familiar, tried-and-true, by-the numbers dystopian teen romance novel with a dash of mystery: Kyla meets a mysterious, handsome young lad with whom she quickly falls in love as the two hope to escape the totalitarian regime and be free together.
That’s not to say it’s bad – if you’re eager for more Young Adult dystopian fiction, it’s certainly an enjoyable and pacy read – but it’s a shame that author Terri Terry opts for a “Me too!” approach to the story, sticking rigidly to the star-crossed dystopian formula we’ve seen countless times over the past few years. Still, there is a lot to like. Terry sets up an enjoyable story with plenty of cool touches: There’s an interesting, rich world established (and it’s cool to see an England-based teen dystopian novel in amongst the current crop), fraught with plenty of 1984-style totalitarian paranoia, the central mystery is engaging (and leaves things open for the obligatory sequel/s) and Kyla is an endearing, well-written, three-dimensional character who keeps you invested in the story.
Unfortunately, while Terry does a pretty wonderful job at making Kyla a fleshed-out, interesting lead, the same isn’t always true of the rest of the cast. Most of the authority figures tend to bleed into one, all sounding and feeling pretty much identical in terms of voice and action. Almost every adult tends to be suspiciously aloof and prying, possibly part of the sinister government regime, until Kyla discovers they’re ultimately quite nice and only looking to help her under-the-radar. More delineation between characters would’ve been much more welcome since they’re all far too similar, and there came a point where a couple of the authority figures had confusingly bled into one as I was reading.
Never quite fulfilling the potential of its concept or stepping outside the formulaic Young Adult star-crossed romance boundaries, Teri Terry’s Slated won’t appeal to broader audiences, but teens with a hankering for yet another swoon-filled futuristic dystopian love story will find plenty to love.
‘Slated’ by Teri Terry is out now in paberback and Kindle format.
Click here to order the book from Amazon.co.uk