Tuesday, September 20, 2011

iBoy and the slippery slope

Kevin Brooks
Scholastic, Nov. 2011

Reviewed by Ann Wilkes

Let me preface this review by saying that I can count how many Young Adult (YA) books I've read on one hand. I don't think I even read many when I was young. Anyhow, now with Scholastic throwing books at me, I thought I'd check some out.

The premise for iBoy, or rather the scientific foundation behind the premise, is holier than Swiss cheese. But if you agree to just play along, the story will reward your efforts. Just think superhero comic and go with it and you'll enjoy the ride. You see, our "hero" Tom Harvey is hit by an iPhone from the 30th floor of a building. That's a neat trick in itself, since the assailant was actually aiming at him. I can totally get that bits of the phone could lodge in his brain. But what they do from there is the stuff of comic books.

The bits of the iPhone intertwine with his brain in such a way that he can do anything an iPhone can do - search the net, make and receive calls, take pictures and video, use apps and more. iBoy can also listen in on any cell phone conversation, send calls anonymously and shock people at will - as in give them an electrical shock. Data streams along his skin as it glows and shimmers. Normal, boring Tom Harvey becomes iBoy.

As soon as Tom wakes up from the coma caused by the impact, he learns that the girl he was going to meet on that fateful day was undergoing an attack herself. His new-found powers give him the means to act on his desire for revenge and his frustration at the lack of justice. But each time he uses his powers to punish Lucy's attackers, he changes, becomes somehow less human.

He chooses to tell no one of his powers. He's afraid the doctors will keep him for more poking and prodding and he doesn't want to worry his grandmother who is raising him. His very real struggle with his morals and the weight of carrying so many secrets is what makes this novel so compelling.

The book is probably 60 percent inner dialog, so you really get to experience his anguish and turmoil firsthand.

I was very close to hitting him then. I really wanted to smack him in the head and wipe that stupid look from his face. Not because he was grinning, not even because he'd momentarily lulle me into almost feeling sorry for him . . . but simply because of his complete lack of remorse for what had been done to Lucy. I mean, how could he even think about apologizing to me without feeling sorry for Lucy?

It was totally unbelievable.

And I knew then that it was a waste of time trying to reason with him, or trying to appeal to his better side, because he didn't have a better side anymore. I just had to treat him as nothing. I had to ingnore my disgust, bury my anger, and just use him to get what I wanted.

I looked at him, letting him see the coldness in my eyes.

I also appreciated the author's use of the short blurbs from literature or reference materials at the beginning of each chapter. In addition, he included little insets of listings that iBoy has brought up in his Internet searches here and there.

What surprised me about this novel was the adult (and by adult I mean profanity, not mature) language and the adult content. It also includes a gang rape (though, thankfully does not depict it) and torture. Scholastic says it's for readers in grades 9-12.

The best thing about this novel is Brooks' portrayal of the effects of trauma and the slippery slope of compromising our morals. Tom lives in a project in a city in England. Things might differ and be called by different names, but teenagers have the same struggles the world over. They need to be loved, accepted and want to become independent.

1 comment:

Ed (sloweddi) said...

Do you think this will give Steve Jobs ideas??

Doesn't he want to control everything anyway?? Just take over the brain and problem solved :)