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edge staff writer


The truth hurts – ‘The Future Will Be BS Free’

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If you’re looking to read some YA genre fiction, you’ve got plenty of options. You can’t swing a cat in a bookstore without hitting half-a-dozen sci-fi/fantasy/whatever books aimed at younger readers. If you’re looking to read some GOOD YA genre fiction, well … you’re going to need to put the cat down.

The point is that there’s a glut of content out there, so don’t be afraid to shape your expectations accordingly. Look for something that speaks to you - whether it’s an author or a plot or a theme or an idea - and take a swing.

Will McIntosh’s “The Future Will Be BS Free” (Delacorte Press, $17.99) promises something that feels a little different. It’s the story of a near-future America under the sway of a despotic and corrupt President, one in which the truth has become so malleable and subjective as to be almost meaningless as a concept. Into this America, a group of gifted teens attempts to bring a beacon – an unfailingly accurate and foolproof lie detector. But their initial dreams of societal (not to mention financial) gain soon fall by the wayside as they discover that there are plenty of people out there with little interest in the truth.

The local gifted and talented program has just been eliminated, leaving 17-year-old Sam and his friends with plenty of time on their hands. They decide to undertake an independent project – a lie detector. Under the guidance of Theo – the true genius of the group – the device slowly begins to materialize. The others - Boob and Basquiat, Molly and Rebe – all bring their own talents to the table, but it’s Sam who’s more or less the leader.

It doesn’t take long for things to get out of control, however. When the group develops a working prototype, they decide to test it out on themselves. They quickly discover that a veneer of gentle dishonesty has long been a significant contributor to functioning interpersonal dynamics. Some dark and sad secrets are dragged into the light. Plus, some shady character has popped out of the woodwork with a not-insubstantial offer to buy their work … along with some thinly-veiled threats with regards to what happens if they refuse.

Suddenly, Sam and his friends are swept up into intrigue that reaches all the way to the White House. The world isn’t ready for the repercussions of total honesty; their lie detector threatens the very fabric of their society as it is constructed. The consequences are potentially dire, leaving the group struggling to save themselves from the many forces mustering against them.

“The Future Will Be BS Free” succeeds on the strengths of its ideas. It’s a hell of a notion for a story – particularly during a time when our understanding of truth appears to be evolving. The thought of a world in which no one can lie does seem appealing on its surface, but McIntosh digs a little deeper and illustrates the unanticipated issues that might arise from such a device. It’s a paradigm that isn’t just shifted, but shattered.

And the world into which this lie detector is born is a fascinating one; McIntosh has given us a portrait of a society that has been broken down by the manipulation of truth and unfettered corruption. There’s a heft to the circumstances – both general and specific – in which these kids find themselves.

The book is not without its flaws, however. The characterizations are a bit thin and the motivations that drive them can be a little murky. Our protagonist Sam is the most fully fleshed-out of the bunch, but even he sometimes feels more like the concept of a teenage boy rather than an actual person. The rest of the kids are largely defined through their relationship with Sam, which is OK – he is the main character, after all – but I found myself wanting just a bit more of a sense of agency from the supporting cast. The resulting flatness slightly undermines the narrative’s overall impact.

Minor issues aside, the book’s successes far outstrip its relatively few missteps. “The Future Will Be BS Free” offers readers a look at a compelling world and an exploration of what might happen if we were to be granted something that we think we want. McIntosh allows his adventure to unspool with a delicious deliberateness, packing each page with details that make for a rich world that is both relatable and repulsive. There’s a challenge at its core that many readers will likely find quite engaging; it’s a smart and thoughtful book in many ways.

You know what they say: the truth hurts.


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