Tor Teen, 2008. 978-0765319852
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Marcus Yallow, aka w1n5t0n, thinks he has the system figured out and how to stay one step ahead. After all, he’s hacked into the school computers and outwitted their surveillance system in order to sneak out. But when Marcus and his friends find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, they are apprehended and held by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on charges of terrorism. When he is finally set free, he realizes just how little he knows and how much more he will have to learn if he is going to fight back.
Why I picked it up: I had classmates in library school that RAVED about this book and how it was just awesome, so I figured I should see what they were talking about.
Why I finished it: I won’t go so far as to say that the book is amazing or anything, but it’s definitely important and it makes you think about just how safe we are. Hackers are a part of our everyday lives and I don’t know about you, but I don’t give it a second thought because I know that there will always be people out there keeping an eye on how we gather and use information – both for good and for evil. Marcus thought that he was paranoid before he was detained, but being a government hostage changes his mind about how much the surveillance is hurting rather than helping people. He gives himself a new name and creates a new life for himself online, hoping to tell people about what the government is doing and what he wants to do about it. In doing so, he unwillingly creates a group of loyal followers that makes him feel like less of a Robin Hood and more of a target. As a narrator, I liked that Marcus takes the reader inside his head and explains exactly what technology he is using and how it could be potentially dangerous. He’s giving the reader food for thought, and understanding the tech he is working with helps us gain a greater understanding of our own tech and just how reliant we are on it. The afterword pieces written by security technologists, hackers, and cypherpunks are making me take notice of the world around me and helped me really re-evaluate the surveillance around me, much in the way Marcus did. It’s an engaging, fast-paced novel that techno-geeks and non techno-geeks alike will appreciate.
Other related materials: Homeland by Cory Doctorow; Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow; For the Win by Cory Doctorow; In Real Life by Cory Doctorow, illustrated by Jen Wang; Feed by M.T. Anderson; Don’t Turn Around by Michael Gagnon; Don’t Look Now by Michael Gagnon; Don’t Let Go by Michael Gagnon; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan; The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd; The Carbon Diaries 2017 by Saci Lloyd; 1984 by George Orwell; Reamde by Neal Stephenson