The Bar Code Tattoo (Bar Code #1) by Suzanne Weyn (2004)
YA Fiction | Dystopian
“Individuality vs. Conformity
Identity vs. Access
Freedom vs. Control
The bar code tattoo. Everybody’s getting it. It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity.
But what if you say no? What if you don’t want to become a code? For Kayla, this one choice changes everything. She becomes an outcast in her high school. Dangerous things happen to her family. There’s no option but to run…for her life.” -Goodreads
pooled ink Review:
I stumbled upon this book tucked away on the bottom shelf in the YA Fiction section at Barnes & Noble one day. It was one of those afternoons I spent cross-legged on the floor perusing titles and searching for something new to read. I was deep into dystopian fiction and I wanted another book to read in this genre and well suddenly I found The Bar Code Tattoo.
I hesitated to buy it because well I didn’t really know anything about it and also because the cover was sort of creepy. But the more I held onto the book the more my interest was piqued and that creepy cover ended up becoming an alluring feature. This book is about a future where people get barcode tattoos with all of their information embedded in that tattoo. You just scan and go. That government-issued “voluntary” tattoo contains your identification, health records, bank accounts, everything.
Even though this book came out in 2004 I didn’t find it until 2012 and well I was in my senior year of high school taking an ethics class which fascinated me and we had been talking about DNA/genetic analysis and how on one hand it’d be good to know all of your potential health issues in advance but then what if it just ends up become another tool for discrimination? Why would you hire someone or offer insurance to someone you know is going to develop a serious heart condition and become an expensive liability? Etcetera.
Ethics has always fascinated me for many reasons but one is because there are no answers. We can twiddle our thumbs or shout until we’re hoarse over ethical issues, questions, and debates but at the end of the day there is no perfect solution nor a unanimous answer. It’s all perspective and philosophy. This makes life frustrating, sure, but it also fascinates me. Maybe this is part of why I am so drawn to dystopian stories. They try so hard to create a utopia but there is no answer to life and so a utopia is not possible with free will but if you take away free will that is only a time bomb for rebellion and even before rebellion a world with no free will, even if it’s tidier, is not a utopia. Thus the dystopia.
Anyway, I got a bit off track. Basically this book drew in my interests and when I sprawled out on my couch to read it I was not disappointed. All the ethical questions presented were thought provoking and legitimate.
I have to admit that a good amount of the time it seemed like the book was far more concerned about discussing the ethical implications and issues rather than focusing on an actual storyline. But even though it sometimes trailed off in a tangent it held together strong enough for this to be forgivable. This book was a discussion on ethics but also a teenage dystopian adventure. I do have to admit that Kayla (the main character) fell in love pretty weirdly quick making the romance aspect of the story feel rushed and forced but as the book went on it found a rhythm and overall I really enjoyed it.
It ended on the cusp of war though and this was pre-Goodreads for me so I never thought to go online to check for a sequel (B&N only had the one book) and so at first I was crushed to be left at such a cliff-hanger but then I quickly made peace with it because it seemed quite fitting. This whole book was going on about ethics and the unknowable and honestly leaving the ending open to possibilities unknown but definitely with warriors full of hope and determination felt right. It didn’t end with a happily ever after but neither does life. It ended with humans ready to fight for freedom and that seemed far more realistic to me. (The same thing happened to me with The Giver where apparently that’s a freaking series too!!! But once again the open-ended conclusion felt right for that story).
Anyway, this book is an interesting take on a maybe not too distant future that feels eerily possible and ethically debatable. Full of people ready to fight for what they think is right and the discussions behind each perspective this book will not only take you on an incredible ride but it will also call you to pause and consider.
Purchase here: The Bar Code Tattoo
Meet Suzanne Weyn!
Suzanne Weyn grew up in Williston Park, Long Island, New York. She has three sisters and a brother. As a girl she was very interested in theater and in reading. Louisa May Alcott was her favorite author, but she also read every Sherlock Holmes story. Suzanne lived pretty close to the ocean and going to Jones Beach was one of her favorite activities Even today, if she goes too long without seeing the ocean, she starts feeling restless.
Suzanne now lives in upper New York State with her husband, two teen daughters and Abby the cat. Her house is at the edge of the woods and is nearly 200 years old. She graduated from State University of New York at Binghamton and received her Masters degree from Pace University. She teaches part time at City College in New York.