'Little Brother' by Cory Doctorow
Published on Friday, February 14, 2014 - 1:21pm
One of the most interesting young adult authors you hear about recently is Cory Doctorow. His work is very different from any other teen book I’ve read recently, and I think everyone who reads YA fiction should give it a look. The best place to start is with Little Brother, his first teen title. Read my review and summary of the book below to get a look at a book that is just a little bit too plausible in today’s world.
Marcus and his friends were skipping school and playing an alternate reality game in San Francisco the day the Bay Bridge blew up. When the Department of Homeland Security swooped in, they rounded up Marcus and his friends and carted them off to intense interrogation, only letting them go when they could prove nothing. But they promised that if Marcus said anything to his family, they would haul him back in.
Marcus comes home to find his parents were worried sick, his beloved hometown of San Francisco turned into a police state, and that his friend Darryl is still being held by the DHS and everyone thinks he’s dead. Being a very intelligent hacker, Marcus decides to show the DHS that he and others like him can stop any measures the DHS uses, and that they should give up Darryl and the others they are holding and leave.
But his hacking and jamming just allows the DHS to get more paranoid and severe. As the pressure builds, will Marcus confess what he knows and save his friends, or will he be silenced in the name of protecting the public good?
Little Brother is a dense but rewarding read. Doctorow fills the book will little snippets about how modern surveillance and computer technology came to be, and provides a great bibliography at the end of the book, making this title a great source on the topic. But that is coupled with a truly inspiring story that every teen will love.
Marcus starts out as a fun-loving teen, goes through great tragedy, and then builds himself back up as he slowly realizes it’s more important to fight for what you believe in (and fight smartly) then to worry about his own personal safety. He becomes a true hero in the end. He also makes plenty of realistic and bad decisions along the way, as he struggles with the consequences of becoming a leader and people being hurt by his actions, and also deals with first loves, including losing his virginity. Several other characters are fleshed out and become interesting in their own right, especially his girlfriend Ange. Doctorow’s political leanings are evident in the novel, but he also tries to represent the opposing side fairly. The plot is fast-paced and full of action, and the many descriptions of San Fran will make a non-Californian familiar with his world. While quite wordy, this title is definitely this generation’s version of 1984, and deserves to be read.
Little Brother is recommended for late teen readers. Check it out along with other titles by Cory Doctorow at MLK Library or your local DC Public Library branch today.