The Bar Code Tattoo

Weyn, Suzanne. (2004). New York: Scholastic. ISBN-10: 0439395623/ ISBN-13: 978-0439395625

17 year old Kayla has started to notice a lot of changes since people began lining up to get the bar code tattoos. After receiving his, her FBI researcher father soon committed suicide. The once-prosperous family of her best friend Amber is reduced to unemployment and living off relatives in Nevada. Kayla becomes involved with a group of anti-bar code activists, including the good-natured Mfumbe, the hostile Nedra, and the attractive Zekeal. It soon becomes apparent that the bar code contains far more than ID and financial information; in fact, an individual’s entire genetic history is in there, and soon the insurance companies are re-sorting society to encourage ‘survival of the least likely to collect benefits’. As the threats mount, Kayla flees north with members of her group, but not everyone is what they appear to be. A side tale of Kayla’s developing extra-sensory powers complicates the situation at the climax.

Reader’s Annotation
No more identity theft--everybody’s getting the handy new tattoos that contain all personal and financial information. Unfortunately, 17 year-old Kayla’s father, an FBI researcher, committed suicide soon after receiving his, and her family is not the only one with problems, as it soon appears the bar codes contain more information than was first suspected.

The writing in the book is clunky, but the situation is compelling. The characters remain one-dimensional and unbelievable, especially the bad teens and the suddenly checked-out mother. The part of the plot which concerned psychic powers seemed unconnected and its Indian spirituality was pretty silly. Still, it is a good idea for a story and the pages kept turning quickly. Weyn’s created slang doesn’t come off well in comparison to the more organically developed teen speech patterns in Feed.

Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties

Booktalking Ideas
What connections can be made between the bar code tattoos and Facebook or MySpace?
If you have the right brand of phone and you stand near certain products in big box stores, the product brand will sense and call your phone with an ad. Should we be more worried than we are about our technology?
Predict the future of Kayla and Mfune?

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 6-11

Challenge Issues

Why Included?
Used for Little Brother bibliography

Selection Tools
Sonoma County Library—“Great Reads for High Schoolers”—pamphlet

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