Thursday, September 07, 2023

Seven Percent of Ro Devereux, by Ellen O'Clover

With help from a family friend, Ro has developed a program called MASH which predicts your future based on the answers that you give to a series of behavioral questions.  It was intended as a senior project, but when she shares it with friends it spreads and goes viral.  Before she knows it, a local incubator wants to develop it and pitch it to a VC company making Ro famous and potentially very very rich.  Her father doesn't approve: he'd prefer she focus on college.  Her co-writer warns her that this is going to bite her in the end.  But Ro has dreamed of making it as a software designer and this seems to be her dream come true.  And it's even predicted by her own app.

There's a problem:  her app also predicts that she'll end up married to Miller, her former best friend.  And to prove to the world that the app actually works, Ro's going to have to make it look like she and Miller are hopelessly in love with each other.  In truth, they detest each other, but he agrees to go along with the charade until the VC company signs on in exchange for the money he needs to pay for college.  And so, Ro and Miller launch out, pitching the app to the media and trying to develop enough chemistry to get through the next few months.  Being a YA romance, you know what happens next between them.

I found the premise of an app that predicts the future not only silly but also morally wrong.  There is no such thing as "proven science" on how people answer questions (of any sort) or profound meaning that can be attributed to it.  The idea that a person's future can be 93% determined by those answers is ridiculous.  And the silliness of the premise is about the only thing that made its morally repugnant elements of predestination tolerable.  For, as Ro discovers in the end, there is an ethical problem with forecasting people's future (or at least convincing them that you can play god).  All of which made her realization at the end seem quaint and a bit dumb.  So, I hated the story.  

I liked the writing though.  O'Clover can create a well-paced story that makes even a silly plot readable.  I liked the characters and enjoyed the book.  So, I'll keep an eye open for her next book, which hopefully will feature something less cringeworthy for a premise.

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