Pass, and have it made.
Fail, and suffer the consequences.
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 in a vast conspiracy of greed involving the mega-wealthy owner of a school testing company. Students who pass his test have it made; those who don't are marked for suffering. And those who question the test? The results may be deadly.
I'm not sure where I remember reading about this one a few months ago, but I did and I was pleasantly surprised when I strolled into B and N not too long ago to see it on the shelf before it's official release date! (Come on, you all know the excitement building up to release day of a book you have been counting down the days to) This one was odd in the way that I REALLY enjoyed the entire story, was a quick read for me, BUT the ending was 1000% predictable. You know when you are reading a story and think to yourself "This is way too easy for me to guess the ending so I'm SURE that the author will definitely NOT use that ending and give me something great"??? Well, sure enough the ending was absolutely no different what-so-ever than anyone who reads this book would think it will be. Now with that said, my minor disappointment ONLY came around the last 10-15 pages or so. I am new to Sleator's work, so based upon his writing in "TEST", I am definitely willing to read a few more and see if I feel the same way. A good book can become a great book with it's ending. This was without a doubt a good book. Alright, so here is the deal....
It's the U.S., around present time and society is broken into the mega wealthy- like we are talking children who arrive at school in their own chopper, to the rest of society- where a mere ride to work or school by car can take hours because for some reason traffic is unimaginably a loooong nightmare. Which of the 2 classes you fall into depends on how you do on the "Test", called the XCAS. You do well, you are allowed a great life- you do poorly, you suffer for the rest of your life and have no hopes for success.
Ann, a high school girl who is not of the wealthy class gets tangled in this whole mess with the family of one of the country's richest men (we will call him MR. XCAS for reference). Why? Amongst many other companies, he just happens to own the company that produces the XCAS. The author does a really good job of tying all of the characters in the story together. Ann's dad worked for the XCAS owner in one of his apartment buildings that he owns. He gets fired and at the same time he and his family spot the daughter of Mr. XCAS hanging around with the apartment building manager Tony, who is crooked, dangerous and totally reminded me of a lower level mob guy (living in the home state of the "Sopranos", I think I called that one on the money). Obviously, Mr. XCAS can NOT find out about this as his daughter should be dating only within their elite class, and especially not someone like Tony, her dad's hired thug. There's a whole separate situation going on with Ann's dad, Mr. XCAS, and Tony that doesn't make Ann's life any easier. So here begins the action.
Ann partners up with LEP, an Asian boy in one of her classes who just happens to be the flunky of Tony. The dirty hands guy, the one who carries out all of the bad deeds for Tony and Mr. XCAS. Needless to say that this "web" the author creates is basically what kept me going throughout the book. I will save the drama for you to read, but will tell you this- EVERYTHING ties together and it ALL revolves around the XCAS (not such a huge spoiler since the book is called "TEST"). There are many messages that the author does a good job of relaying. Attempted murder, sabotage, deadly threats, regret, friendship, unity, love, and fear are clearly portrayed. Although the ending is like figuring out that a round peg fits in a round hole, I am sort of glad that it ended the way it did. You know when you hope throughout a movie that the good guy ends up winning and the world ends up a better place to live? Well, that's how I felt here.
So, I guess I will leave it at that since the meat of the story is where the action was. Out in paperback, it's worth the money for an enjoyable read. Again, I am going to try Sleator some more, but I can only take so many times where the good guy wins and everyone lives happily ever after- good story or not. So we will have to see what happens. Of course I will report back to you guys and Mr. Sleator, if you are listening- shock me, surprise me, make me turn the last page and say "OMG, WOW" and I'll be able to justify calling myself a true fan.