Title: Little Brother XAuthor: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction
Themes: Terrorism, Freedom, Government
Age Range: 8th-12th Grade
Summary: (from Goodreads)
Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: "M1k3y" will take down the DHS himself.
This novel is action packed, and I think that the characters are ones that many youth could relate to. Unlike some dystopian novels, where the society that we know as completely ceased to exist, the America created in Little Brother is one that feels not so far away. Which is a little terrifying, to be honest. The books reminded me a little bit of The Circle by Dave Eggers. It is really an exploration of the consequences of our increasing reliance on social media, and the myriad of ways that we are connected to the digital world. What kind of information do we share about ourselves every day, and how can that information be used against us?
Perhaps the scariest part for me was the constant surveillance, especially of children, all in the name of "safety". I've seen an awful lot of scary things happen in the name of "safety" already. White families who move out of a diverse neighborhood to a majority white one"for the schools", otherwise known as white flight. Surveillance cameras in our streets. The Patriot Act. The reprehensible immigration ban that is thankfully being blocked at the moment by the courts. It seems completely plausible to me that we are one or two terror attacks away from the kind of Department of Homeland Security crack-down that takes place in this novel. There are great themes to talk about with this book. What should be the balance between security, personal privacy, and freedom of association? Can hacking be considered a form of civil disobedience? Is it OK to break laws you consider unjust? What should the role of government be in policing our communities? All of these questions are relevant to the time, and could help build a bridge for students between the fictional dystopia of Doctorow's America and the complex issues the world must grapple with in the face of terrorist threats.