Monday, February 8, 2010

48. Little Brother

Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-1985-2. ISBN-10:0-7653-1985-3. A Tor Teen Book. 2008.

Plot Summary
Marcus Yallow is a tech-savvy teenager growing up in San Francisco during a time of heightened security. At Marcus' high school, gait detecting cameras record classroom halls and library cards can set off an alarm. One day Marcus and a group of his friends ditch class in order to play a role playing game called Harajuku Fun Madness, which involves solving clues and puzzles while exploring the city. While searching for their first clue, they happen to be near the site of a terrorist attack on the Bay bridge. The Department of Homeland Security apprehends Marcus and his friends as potential terrorist suspects. The DHS interrogate them and lock them away in a prison on Treasure Island. Eventually the children are all released after being threatened, except for their friend Daryl.

After this event, the DHS takes over the city, arresting and interrogating people at will. This is something that Marcus cannot deal with, especially with his friend still missing. Marcus starts a movement, hacking computer systems, and uniting teenagers with X-boxes in order to fight against the practices of the DHS and the government. He breaks the law and puts his life in danger to stand up for the freedoms and friends he has lost at the hands of the country he loves.

Critical Evaluation
Cory Doctorow's Little Brother is the kind of book that can get kids in the 21'st century reading. It deals with a generation fluent in computer hacking, video games, and spy technology. Teenagers today can relate to the kinds of characters who live in the world that Doctorow creates. The book also has the added bonus of being able to get teens interested in politics and to explore their rights as citizens in America or elsewhere. The only setback in the story is that at times the action can drag, and it definitely could have been trimmed down some, but these minor complaints are what they are, minor, because the novel as a whole is an excellent piece of work.

Doctorow really hit a home run by writing a relevant novel depicting teenage love, determination, hardship, and discovery. Readers who follow the adventures of Marcus Yallow will find a story that is very cinematic. From start to finish the novel is highly suspenseful. Even upon completion of the story, readers will quickly feel the urge to devour the afterwords, bibliography, and acknowledgements as well. The novel is so well done that even if you are not interested in technology, after completing the novel you will be. Doctorow makes hacking seem fun, and reading about it a thrilling experience.

Reader's Annotation

Teenager Marcus Yallow was in the wrong place at the wrong time and now the Department of Homeland security suspects him as a potential terrorist. There is only one thing left for Marcus to do, take revenge on the government.

Author Information
Cory Doctorow is an acclaimed author, blogger, and technology activist. He is the co-editor of and a contributor to publications such as Wired, Popular Science, and the New York Times. Doctorow's novel Little Brother was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2009, and won the Prometheus Award and Sunburst Award the same year.

Doctorow is a huge advocate of the Creative Commons organization, releasing editions of his novels for free online. Creative commons allows people to remix Doctorow's work, through fan fiction or other outlets as long they are not using his material for profit. Doctorow's first published novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, was published in 2003 by Tor publications

Learn more about Cory at his website:

action, science fiction

Curriculum Ties

Computer hacking, government

Book Talking Ideas
Are Marcus' actions justified? Was breaking the law necessary to achieve what he wanted?
Why was Marcus allowed to leave, and Daryl forced to stay?
What does this novel reveal to readers about the government?
Discuss if it is okay to break the law in order to do the right thing.

Reading Level
Grades 9+

Challenge Issues
language, sexuality, violence

Challenge defense ideas:
1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection
After reading this novel for class I knew that I wanted to include it for this blog assignment. Little Brother created a kind of suspense for me that I don't think I've every experienced reading. I think this is a great book for teens today because of the heave influence and appreciation of technology presented.

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