Ads R Us, by Claire Carmichael

The name was familiar to me. My uncle had spent many hours warning me about the role of advertising in the Chattering World. He’d been particularly scathing about the influential lobbying organisation his sister headed, the Ads-4-Life Council.

Orphaned as a baby, Barrett Trent has spent all his life in an eco-cult called Simplicity, protected from the modern world. But now his uncle is dead, and an aunt he has never met has decided he must come and live with her and her family. Barrett’s spoilt cousin Taylor isn’t too keen on having him sharing their home. She is one of the in-group, and Barrett’s lack of sophistication could affect her standing.

Aunt Kara is more welcoming. She is the head of the Ads-4-Life council, and she finds Barrett’s background – or rather the chance his background gives her to study the impact of advertising on someone who has never been exposed to it before – fascinating. For Barrett, who is initially unaware that he is being used as a guinea pig, the experience could have dire consequences. Taylor, too, could find herself in trouble as events spiral out of both teenagers’ control.

Ads R Us is a frighteningly plausible futuristic novel, set in a not-too-distant future where advertisements aren’t just everywhere – they are actually in control of most aspects of life. Schools are sponsored by corporations who may not always have children’s best needs at heart, and individual lessons are sponsored by products teachers are expected to endorse. Children have microchips implanted which record not just their movements but also their shopping preferences, banking details and more.

This is an exciting read, but it will also have readers squirming as they see both the parallels with the consumerism-driven society we already live in, and the foreshadowing of how this could develop.

Teens will find this a fascinating story and it would also have excellent classroom application, with plenty of room for discussion of advertising, peer-pressure, privacy and more.

Ads R Us, by Claire Carmichael
Random House, 2006