Review Blog

Dec 03 2008

Little brother by Cory Doctorow

cover image

Tom Doherty, 2008.
(Age 13+) Recommended. A book that kept me thinking about the issues that it raises long after I finished it, Little Brother will be a treat for teenagers who are into political issues, computers and maths. Marcus, 17 years old, smart and computer savvy, believes he knows how to get around any system, until one day he and his friends are caught up in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on San Francisco. Arrested by the Department of Homeland Security the friends are taken to a secret prison and interrogated for days. When Marcus is released from the place they call Gito-by-the-Bay, he finds that he is living in a police state and Darryl, one of his friends who was arrested with him, has disappeared. What can one teenager do?
This is a fast paced adventure story with lots of information about hacking which I skimmed over but is sure to be fascinating for younger readers. What I really admired about this book is the way Doctorow expands his ideas about a police state, the rights of the individual, privacy and freedom of speech. The whole story line insists a teenager can take action to improve things and can do it now. Sometimes the story gets a bit didactic, but the reader will forgive that as Marcus' journey to overcome injustice progresses.

This is a great discussion book and one that will get kids thinking. Is it ever OK to torture people? Should the rights of individuals to privacy be kept in times of terrorism? How should technology be used? Can teenagers make a difference? This story can be download for free at but it's a must-have addition to the library or class collection in its book format.
Pat Pledger

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