During sorting she receives a device known as ‘The Band’. It’s a large watch-like device that never comes off, and it measures a citizen’s karma on a scale from one to one hundred. If a citizen does good, they gain points. If a citizen does bad, including breaking laws, they lose points. When your number reaches zero, the band acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and you are injected with toxins that kill you within minutes.
After sorting, recruits are taken to a three month long mandatory school named HQ. It’s at HQ she meets new friends from different zones, and finally begins to feel at ease. Everything goes well until a rare trip home makes her discover that her father, who has been missing for a decade, may have taken part in a terrible program that stands to shake the fabric of society.
The book is set in a dystopian society that it divided into six zones. Each zone and its occupants represent that citizen’s benefit to society. At the end of the month you become the age of sixteen everyone must turn up to have their bands fitted and to have their future zone decided upon. Every one has to have a band fitted on their arm. This band cannot be removed and it starts off with 100 points and it is green in colour. Points can and are deducted for anything you do which is considered wrong. 100-66 starts off a bright green and goes paler the lower your points get, 65-35 is a bright yellow which also turns paler the lower your points total is and finally 35-0 is red and this time it starts out pale, but the more points you lose the brighter the red. If you commit some awful crime and all your points are removed, or if you lose your points and end up at zero, you are killed. Apparently, the band somehow pushes poison into your system and kills you.
Kalenna is very near to her 16th birthday, the day she will be given her band and her zone too. She may return to Quixotic where she was born and brought up. Kalenna lives with her mother and her ten year old sister Tria. Kalenna’s father disappeared when Kalenna was much younger, Tria doesn’t even remember her father, George. Kalenna and her mother keep George/dad’s memory alive by showing the wedding photograph and the other keepsakes that are hidden away in a box and then that is hidden too, as George insisted it contained something very important that the government must never find. Kalenna is surprised when her mother makes her a birthday cake, they are not a well off family so such decadent treats are rare. Today Kalenna will receive her band which will be bright green and have 100 points on it. She will also find out which district she will live and serve in. Kalenna is both excited and upset, her ideal scenario will be to be placed in Quixotic as then she can continue to live with her mum and Tria. Kalenna has to say her tearful goodbyes to Tria at their modest home as only the parents of the sixteen year olds are allowed to watch the ceremony.
I loved the descriptions and similes used in the book when all the sixteen year olds watch the first very nervous, timid girl get up and approach President Green for her band. “We all watched her, our eyes glued to her and nothing else; she was like the sacrificial lamb up for slaughter." The descriptions are so good you can easily visualise and empathise with the individual characters and what they are enduring. The parents of the sixteen year olds are warned if there are any disturbances they will be removed so it really shocks Kalenna when it is her turn, she quietly accepts her band and then the computer delivers it verdict as to which zone she will be in…..it say’s I see a lot of benefits in this girl. She is definitely strong, stronger than most. She is certainly selfless in all aspects, yet also has a wandering, quixotic mind reminiscent of most in her home zone. It would be my recommendation that she be placed in—” The computer stopped, at least in my mind, as the only sensation I could feel was my heart racing out of my chest. I looked up at the Altruistic girl who was standing next to me, and she looked back down at me, giving me a quick, sly wink. “Altruistic,” the computer said. It’s at that point Kalenna’s mother shouts out!