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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

More amazing YA fiction from Cory Doctorow!

Doctorow, Cory (2013) Homeland.  New York: Tor.

Opening lines:  "Attending Burning Man made me simultaneously one of the most photographed people on the the planet and one of the least surveilled humans in the modern world.."

Marcus Yallow, the teen-aged hacker-turned-political-activist who we met in Doctorow's Little Brother is back.  While he is attending the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, he runs into his old  nemesis, Masha.  She slips him a flash-drive just before she is kidnapped by the same quasi-government operatives who jailed and tortured Marcus in the previous book.  Marcus is injured in the explosion that serves as a diversion to cover the kidnapping.  When he eventually returns to civilization and gets a chance to look at the documents on the flash-drive, he discovers that Masha has handed him a huge set of incriminating documents that could shut down the oppressive government operation forever.  But how can he verify the information and get it out there without the government goons tracking it back to him?  What follows is a wild ride of a story that involves peaceful protest, police manipulated into brutalization, a crusading politician, plenty of close calls, and enough hacking, techno-strategy, and suspense to keep any thinking reader on the edge of her or his seat.

This book would be best for high school.  It is too big to be a read-aloud in a single semester, though you could get far enough into it to get students hooked, then leave it up to them to finish it.  It weaves together themes of human rights and civil rights versus increased government control in order to have safety from terror; technology's role in consolidating or distributing power, and how activism can make a difference.  It might be hard to use the book in a classroom setting because it is a big one (390+ pages) -- but perhaps as a post-test unit for an AP class.

Oh, and while I am thinkng of it, though the cover looks like a graphic novel, this is a traditional YA novel.

There is little here that would bring about a parental or community challenge.  There are implied moments in which Marcus and his girlfriend Ange are together alone in his bedroom and sex is implied, but not really stated.  It is also true that neither Marcus nor Ange are advocates for traditional marriage -- but all this is very much peripheral to the story.

I highly recommend it.  It is a gripping, interesting, and very smart book.

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