Review originally posted here
.Why I Read It:
I've had my eye on this for awhile, partly because of the striking cover, and also because I read an article where this book was on some magazine or newspaper's "top" list or something or other. Anyway, my brother was looking for book to buy, so I suggested this and he ended up loving it. This was about two years ago, and I've finally gotten around to reading it myself.
If I had to sum up this book in one word, it would be this: relevant. I labeled this book as "Futuristic Fiction" because it IS set in the future (though no specific year is ever given), but it feels like the kinds of things that transpire in this book could happen at any time. In fact, things that are talked about in this book are undoubtedly happening in other countries around the world right now.
So what does this book talk about? The dreaded security vs. freedom/privacy debate. Should government forces be allowed to invade our privacy if it means catching the bad guys? Does the invasion of privacy *actually* guarantee our security? This book tackles these questions, and while the stance of the text is very clear, it still doesn't give easy answers for either side of the debate. Yes, Marcus and youths all over San Francisco rebel against the DHS, but there are huge risks for everyone involved and they are serious repercussions for Marcus's actions; sometimes, there are nasty consequences when Marcus meant to do good too.
This book is smart and it sheds light on very politically driven debates, but it's written in a very accessible way that I think will resonate and speak to teens. I think this is fantastic, as it's a sad truth that a lot of teens -- heck even people my age and older -- who just don't care about politics, or voting, or what have you. I really hope that this book will incite an interest in teens to pay closer attention to the news, or to current issues.
If you're not familiar with geekdom, some things may go over some readers heads, though the narrator Marcus is pretty good for filling people in. Being a huge geek myself, I already knew about half the stuff he was talking about anyway, but I did learn a lot as well. Some readers may find Marcus's explanation info-dumpy, and really they ARE, but they're *interesting*, so I found myself not caring.
My only complaint with the novel is that I found some of the characterization to be lacking. Marcus, the main character, is great, but the minor characters, like Marcus's friends, either drop out of the narrative early on, and the ones who drop in later (like Ange), don't get much in terms of development. They do always feel like real people, but like people who you know from a distance, like a friend of a friend -- I would have really liked to know them as well as Marcus really knew them.Final Verdict:
This is a compelling book that talks about important issues (mainly the security vs. freedom debate) in an accessible and smart way for teens. Computer/techno should rejoice while reading, as there are geek factoids throughout the entire novel, and even if you're not a geek, these facts could prove to be interesting (I thought so anyway.) I found the characterization to be lacking with the secondary characters, but Marcus was such an engaging narrator and the main plot was so engrossing I found myself not minding too much. Definitely recommended.