In this debut YA techno-thriller, a computer-savvy teenager continues to develop a code language that his deceased father began.
High school senior Wyatt Fox has been seeing a graphic of a ghost while using the “Internet of Things Access” computer network. His friend Eli assumes that it’s an advertisement—just another data-tracking aspect of IOTA. However, Wyatt’s father recently died in a car accident, so the smart, lonely boy can’t help but acknowledge the weird coincidence. He had been close with his dad, who taught him how to write codes. They created a code language together, which involved famous quotes, such as Cicero’s “The aim of justice is to give everyone his due.” Now, Wyatt finds that he’s adept at manipulating a world that’s dependent on computer technology; there are self-driving cars, holographic sports in gym class, and companies obsessed with citizens’ biometric data. Wyatt learns that the ghost graphic (and its accompanying initials, WYW) was present at the site of his father’s accident. He also receives a text message that says, “You will know what to do,” along with coordinates for an old building in the city. He and Eli head for the location via train, but once in the city, Eli vanishes from the station, and Wyatt begins to learn that his father’s life wasn’t what it seemed. Dollahite has crafted a sharp, terrifying debut novel filled with the echoes of injustice that pervade 21st-century reality. His near-future world has seen cities destroyed by rising oceans as governments and corporations enforce the status quo, hunting down the last of the fossil fuels. As Wyatt’s father says, these groups have “been collecting our data for a long time now and...little good has come of it.” Eventually, Wyatt meets a beautiful hacker, Letti, and enters his father’s world in earnest. Meanwhile, he struggles with “how to make something just your very own.” The story creeps toward a blustery climax; hopefully, the sequel will validate Wyatt’s tough choices.
This YA narrative is full of quiet fury, and it’s remarkable watching its protagonist harness it.