Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Bar Code Tattoo

The Bar Code Tattoo

Suzanne Weyn
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic , 2012   ISBN: 978-0545470544

Ever since she was child, Kayla has loved to draw and paint, and so she has grown up expecting that she would study art and design in college. She is therefore shocked to find out that some of her school grades are not good enough for her to get a scholarship to study art. Unfortunately, paying for college is not an option because Kayla’s parents are not well off. For some time now Kayla’s father has not being going to work as he should, and he will probably be fired soon.

The reason for his behavior is unclear. All Kayla knows is that ever since her father got his bar code tattoo, he has been behaving very strangely. He seems to think that the tattoo is more than just a means to make life easier.

Bar code tattoos are a relatively new thing in the United States. They are inked on a person’s wrist using a tattoo machine, and the code connects to that person’s medical, financial, and personal information. Instead of having to carry around an ecard to pay for things, all you have to do is to have your bar code scanned.

Kayla does not like the idea of having a number tattooed permanently on her skin. It seems a little creepy and too invasive, and so, unlike her friend Amber, she is not convinced that it is a good thing to do. This view only gets stronger when Kayla’s father commits suicide. Her mother keeps insisting that the bar code tattoo that he husband had was responsible for his death, though she refuses to explain why. Instead, she tries to avoid the issue by drinking heavily and taking tranquilizers.

When Kayla turns seventeen, Amber tries to persuade Kayla to get her tattoo, but Kayla still resists. Then she meets a group of young people who are a part of a campaign that is called Decode. Led by a senator, the people who support the campaign believe that American citizens are losing too many of their civil rights, and that the tattoo will only make the situation worse. The senator believes that people should be able to choose how their personal information is stored and used.

Over time, it becomes harder and harder for people who don’t have bar code tattoos to manage. Stores don’t want to accept any other form of payment, and when Kayla tries to get a job, no one wants to hire her because she doesn’t have a bar code tattoo. Then the government announces that everyone over the age of seventeen has to get a bar code tattoo, and Kayla’s life becomes a nightmare.

In this futuristic tale, readers will find themselves in a world where the powers that be are decidedly sinister. The story begins tamely enough, but as Kayla’s life starts to unravel, the tension builds. Secrets are unveiled, and when Kayla is forced to run from the authorities, we realize that there is no guarantee that she will come out of her ordeal unscathed