Little Brother

by Cory Doctorow

I read a lot of young adult fiction these days. Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow, is one of the reasons.

It’s one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time, but it isn’t an easy book to digest. It is definitely Orwellian. Readers into cyberpunk and futuristic dystopian novels will love it.

Marcus Yallow, a smart, tech savy 17 year old is used to doing pretty much whatever he wants. Then one day he and his high school friends are out tracking down clues for an online game when terrorists blow up the Bay Bridge. In the immediate aftermath they are abducted by homeland security. No one knows their whereabouts while they are held prisoners, interrogated, tortured, and forced to give up their privacy and reveal all their secrets. When they are released, they are told to keep what happened to them a secret, or else.

Daryl, Marcus’ best friend, doesn’t come home.

As the power of homeland security increases, democracy disappears. San Francisco and California turn into a police state. Civil liberties are increasingly eroded. Individuals are tracked electronically, then stopped and searched for veering out of their routines.

Marcus and a group of tech savvy friends rebel. Through use of futuristic technology known as the X-box and paranoid lynix, they come up with ways to disrupt the power of homeland security.

Against this backdrop of intrigue and rebellion, Marcus meets a girl, Ange, and falls in love. As the story evolves he becomes a significant youth leader and is forced to deal with the ramifications of his power, actions and influence over others.

They are careful and think they are safe. Homeland security is already on to them.

Terrifying, suspenseful, and ominous, this is an exciting read, and educational as well. Doctorow explains how technology works in meaningful ways within the context of the story. I learned a lot about encryption, programming and the mathematics behind it all.

It is one of those books for the grade 7 shelf, and even then, I would probably be very cautious about who I recommend it too. I would give this book to Raphael and Harit to read if they were still students at the school. They reminded me that a truly engaging book that deals with important issues can be hard to read on an emotional level, but is still the best kind of book to read.

I listened to this book as a free audiobook from sync audio, but you can download the ebook here for free.

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