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Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Title Little Brother
Author Cory Doctorow
Publisher Tor Teen
Year 2008
ISBN 0765319853

Teaser/Reader Annotation After a terrorist attack in San Francisco finds him wrongfully imprisoned and tortured by the US government, Marcus makes it his mission to take back the city through a techno-rebellion. Can Marcus come out of this with his freedom still intact?

Plot Summary Marcus Yallow is a tech-savvy teenager living in San Francisco. He and his friends have long since figured out how to trick the high school security system's trackers in order to sneak out into the city to play Harajuku Fun Madness – an Alternative Reality Game finding clues throughout the city. After sneaking out into the city one day, however, a terrorist attack hits the Bay Bridge triggering madness. On the day in question, as they try to flee for safety, Marcus and his friends are captured and held prisoner by an unnamed organization which suspects their involvement in the attack. When they are finally released, each of them is threatened to keep quiet about what happens by what they come to find out is the Department of Homeland Security, but Marcus simply cannot let it go.

Sparking a revolution on an encrypted Xbox network called The Xnet, Marcus fights secretly to take back American rights against the increasingly totalitarian Department of Homeland Security. All the while, his best friend is still missing.

Critical Evaluation Doctorow's novel was a page turner from start to finish. It is a novel that a tech-savvy teenager will not be able to put down. However, those without a geeky side may feel a little overwhelmed by some of the technical details at certain points of the novel. Even I, who knows a great deal about computers and programming, had trouble understanding parts of it, which leads me to feel that others might become discouraged trying to get through those areas or simply by-pass them altogether. The other major drawback is the use of popular slang lathered heavily throughout the novel which greatly detracted from the reading. While it may be acceptable to readers within the first year or two of publication, already I noticed outdated terms and phrases. It may seem like a good idea for “connecting to the current generation” as the author is writing it; however, the heavy-handed use of slang that was used in this novel has the possibility of drawing mockery from future generations. On the other hand, the plot itself was worth slugging through the techno-jargon and slang. It made the reader sit back and truly think about the freedoms and rights Americans take for granted and examine the Constitution and Bill of Rights as we know them. In creating a thought-provoking story with a gripping narrative, Doctorow succeeded remarkably.

About the Author Cory Doctorow is a Canadian author, blogger, and journalist. He was born into a Jewish activist household with a father who was born in a refugee camp. Doctorow is a big proponent of the open rights movement in favor of lightening copyright laws and promoting free-distribution. As such, digital rights and file sharing are common themes throughout his works. Little Brother was originally released under the Creative Commons Licensing which allowed for free distribution of the work.

For a time, Doctorow lived in London, working for Electronic Frontier Foundation – a non-profit digital rights and legal organization – to help set up the Open Rights Group. After retiring in 2006 to work full-time on writing, he moved back to North America. After spending a year in a writing and teach residency at USC in Los Angeles, he returned to London where he lives with his wife, Alice, and their daughter.

Primary Genre Cyberpunk

Secondary Genre Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties Computer Science

Booktalking Ideas

1) How is the theme of digital rights prevalent throughout the novel? Give examples.

2) How does Doctorow parallel Orwell's warnings from 1984 especially in reference to the Patriot Act?

Reading Level/Interest Age 15+

Challenge Issues minor sexual content

1) Become familiar with book and its content.
2) Refer to library's collection policies.
3) Refer to reviews from School Library Journal, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobles.
4) Get reviews from teenagers who are familiar with the book.

Why is it included? This book was assigned for class reading, and I found it to be an enjoyable read.