Review: Scored, by Lauren McLaughlin

>>Published: October 2011

>>Finally got around to it: February 2012

“Clamdiggah,” the tall one said. “I give her two chances.” He raised his voice to ensure she heard him. “One, she’s swinging around a pole in a few years. Two, land mine food.”

The freckled one laughed with a tinge of embarrassment. “Man, that’s cold.”

“She does have a sexy walk, though,” the tall one went on. “Hey, you know you have a sexy walk? And I’m okay with the race thing. Seriously. No? Still not interested? What about now?”

Imani could feel their eyes on her as she willed herself to walk, not run, away from them. As the sound of their chuckling faded, a single thought cheered her: one day the score would be universal. There would be eyeballs everywhere, even in that haunted pathway. You’d need a score to go to college, a score to get a job. Maybe you’d even need a score to go to high school. Privilege would be wiped out, and boys like that would get what they deserved.


The gamification of the future continues in Lauren McLaughlin’s Scored. Best described as Nineteen Eight-Four by way of a Machiavellian Xbox Live Achievement Points-style meritocracy, Scored presents, for your consideration, Imani LeMonde and Diego Landis (those his name is mistakenly written as McLune on the book’s jacket flap): a scored girl with unlimited future potential—providing she tailor her associations accordingly—and an unscored boy with uncertain ambitions and a mysterious way about him.

ScoreCorp is paving the way for future generations. In Somerton High—a ScoreCorp sponsored institution—the scored are a band apart. The camera eyes around the school and surrounding town are watching their every move—their grades, their actions, and their associations, both in and out of school. Maintaining a score of ninety or above is the path to a higher education, scholarship, and employment in the field of your choice. Scoring in the seventies or eighties means retail sector, or possible military service. Dropping down into the sixties and below and you risk “lowbie” status. And like humans and our capacity to compartmentalize emotional scarring, one’s score is easily tarnished, but difficult to reinstate to its prime.

Scored is a bit of an uneven product. Taking inspiration from Orwell and Huxley, McLaughlin’s quiet little dystopian is more academic exercise than narrative. Using Imani and Diego’s different upbringings and opposing worldviews to provide ample room for debate, McLaughlin isn’t as interested in plot or character development as she is in addressing established dystopian parables within a contemporary framework.

The setting of Scored is more unsettling than its ideological contemporaries due to its accessibility. Rather than positing a future society that may or may not ever come to pass, Scored is our world, with one simple difference that changes how people determine their associations, their friends, and whether or not to sacrifice one another on the altar of upward social momentum.

Scored is a fun, simple read with an appealing ideological premise (recycled though it may be). The interplay between Diego and Imani is biting and amusing, though Imani’s about-face change of perspective comes with too little time in the narrative to be truly effective. It’s also worth noting that this is the first YA novel I’ve read in some time to use the word “fuck” so casually. The lack of conceptual originality works in the book’s favour as a means of prompting discussion between the characters, but the short running length and truncated running-into-a-brick-wall ending left me wanting more than what I’d been offered. Lauren McLaughlin’s Scored is a delicious first course—but that is all it is. Without acknowledgement and fallout from Imani’s decisions, it feels less like a complete story and more like the first act of a grander tale.