A – Abstraction

ab·strac·tion
noun
1. an abstract or general idea or term.
2. the act of considering something as a general quality or characteristic, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances.
3. an impractical idea; something visionary and unrealistic.
4. the act of taking away or separating; withdrawal: The sensation of cold is due to the abstraction of heat from our bodies.
5. secret removal, especially theft.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/abstraction

9781408319468It is the new societal norm as old as history – take away the characteristics, the feeling states, the experiences that don’t resonate with the guidelines in any given society and you can arrive at the abstraction of what it means to be an acceptable member of that society. Slated, By Teri Terry, is a book for youth that takes that concept to its cutting edge.

It is a society where the ability to alter the personality of an individual has reached its highest level passing an edge of ethical practice. Those younger than 16 that are deemed as deviants in society are “slated”, thoughts and memories within the upper cortexes of her brain have been, supposedly, wiped clean. For a number of weeks and months they are held in the hospital where they are retrained from infancy up. They progress at a rate faster than in the early years but often are still far below their peers in skills and knowledge when reintroduced to society. Given a monitoring system to help them stay in accepted parameters of emotions these young people are permanently marked as different even as they are being trained to fit a norm.

The story is viewed through the experiences of Kyla. With no real experiential memories, she has been re-nurtured to an age where she can now be adopted into her new family – a mother, a father, and another sister, clearly not their natural offspring. A microchip in her brain wired a bracelet on her arm helps record and alert her to levels of stimulus outside of the accepted parameters. If her levels of sadness or anger cause the number to drop too low she is expected to first go unconscious and even reach a point of death. Part of the training she receives is methods to stabilize her “happiness” level into the acceptable parameters. The changes in this status are recorded in the chip to help others monitor her adjustments to society.

It is soon shown that Kyla is different from most of the slated. An artist, she finds her motor memory in one hand is inconsistent to what she has been told is true about herself. She also finds inconsistencies in her emotions and the reading on her Levo. Within the novel we walk with her as she faces these new questions. We are drawn in to a relationship with a three dimensional character. We are caused to care for her and yet question the past that could have brought her to this state. We are led to question the morals of the society which has the power to subjugate difference into non-existence.

As I read this story I could not help but compare the society to some of the favored inspirational quotes in the social media. Are there ways that we, as a society, are already adopting some of those beliefs that label and ostracize those who don’t fit our social norms? Are we perpetuating conditions that drive those whose level of pain is outside of our accepted levels into hiding by shaming them simply through a regurgitation of clichés about what it means to be positive people? Do we drive those whose stories might help others underground by distancing ourselves from their “negativity” if they dare to question those systems that we treat as sacred icons of rightness?

I see the posts and stories where people ask the why after a tragedy comes to light. What would happen if we dared open up those places of our own brokenness not as topics in books but as parts of real conversations as real people? Is there a chance we might alleviate one more tragedy by helping one more person feel less alone?

Yes, there are those who have been taught to be dependent, and so drain those who try to be present for them. I know that siren’s call. I am a person who struggles and the reality is, I find that being willing to seek help for myself but having struggles is not a popular position to take. By choosing not to be dependent, I choose to not be of interest to those who get their validation by reaching down to the needy. However, by choosing to be open about the reality of my struggle to heal, I also close myself off from those who have the positive people view of relationships.

Like Kyla, I find myself searching faces and conversations for those who will simply walk alongside me in this journey as we encourage each other to find wholeness. Like Kyla, something inside me is not willing to just fade into external expectations. At the end of the book, I find myself willing to journey further with her.

*Terry, Teri; Slated; Scholastic Inc.; 2012

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