Everyone is a number in a dystopian near-future in which lives are determined by a corporation's surveillance-driven scores.
Imani LeMonde has grown up under the watchful cameras of Score Corp, a software company promising access to advancement opportunities for those with high-enough scores. When her best friend Cady's score plummets, Cady becomes a liability. If Imani can keep her score over 90 until she graduates, she gets to go to college—otherwise, she can't afford a future. The prospect of freedom through college means being under constant corporate surveillance, making it risky for her to see Cady or Diego, an intelligent yet unscored classmate. When Diego wants to partner with Imani for an essay assignment requiring the scored students to write persuasively against the score and the unscored to argue for it, Imani's score-quest leads her into playing both sides while trying to decide which one is hers. McLaughlin (Recycler, 2009, etc.) keeps the heavy, philosophical ideas married to the characters, thus preventing the story from becoming a preachy rant. Diego's flaws and privilege along with the tension of Imani's final score looming overhead complicate what would otherwise be an open agenda.
The bold, aggressive narrative condemns both No Child Left Behind–style testing and current financial policies, cautioning about what could happen to social mobility in the face of stark inequity. (Science fiction. 13 & up)