Gotta B by Claire Carmichael
Random House Australia, 2009. ISBN
(Age 12+) Recommended. Set in the near future, Carmichael explores a society where every young person is online constantly, so much so that Dr Carter Renfrew believes that this generation is the next step in evolution, Homo electronicus. When Rick Lawrence is suddenly disconnected, his iZod dead, he discovers that he can no longer communicate with his friends, the Five, who have been together since Kindergarten; he can't play games or even get his homework. He feels like he doesn't exist and begins to get depressed. Communications companies, always keen to keep ahead of trends, are pushing for research into the teenage brain but how far is Renfrew and his colleague Dr Howard Unwin prepared to go in their quest for knowledge and power? And what are they prepared to do to Rick to get their data?
Carmichael has created a credible world where teenagers can cope only if they have their iZod and are constantly online. The main characters are well developed and engrossing. I became involved with Rick's wobbly mental state and cheered Tal when he decided that enough was enough and he and the Five would go to his rescue. The cyberbully Marianne was brilliantly described as was George the topnotch computer student.
There is plenty of action and suspense as Tal and his friends launch a cyber attack on a corporate bully and the evil researchers. It was fascinating to follow them as they mounted a campaign to stop the computer disconnections and research.
Themes of cyberbullying, unethical scientific experimentation and media manipulation weave through the story and would create lots of discussion points if used as a class novel.
I found this to be a riveting book which I couldn't put down. I finished it in the early hours in one sitting. What more can you ask of a book than that it totally engrosses the reader?