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Reviewed by Caitlin Lyle Farley for Readers' Favorite
Bristol is a second child in a world where second children are no longer allowed. According to the worldwide Metrics government, he barely exists at all. Bristol can never become an artist, no matter how talented he is. Instead, he paints graffiti in the hours after curfew, leaving vivid messages on walls throughout the city. Samara lives close to one of the walls Bristol regularly paints on and is an admirer of his work. She’s shocked and saddened when the government announces that they’ve captured the graffiti artist, but not quite as shocked as Bristol, who sees the report on the news. Throughout Jude’s hearing and subsequent imprisonment, the ten-year-old boy remains confident that his innocence will eventually earn his freedom. Nothing shakes his certainty until the morning he discovers drugs planted in his bed.
Where many novels are quick to establish the negative aspects of totalitarianism, much of the Metrics government’s laws appear logical at first, even beneficial. Instead of broadcasting secret societies and mass uprising as the only hope for an oppressed people, Unregistered focuses on a more personal quest to aid a child convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The elements of public resistance in M. Lynch’s novel are quieter and less certain and this approach presents the reader with plenty of grey areas to ponder as the story unfolds. The characters are well rounded and possessed of a maturity that makes them so much more interesting than the gung-ho vigilantes that normally take centre stage in YA. Unregistered is one of the more innovative and gratifying novels to enter the dystopian genre.