A teen hacker is recruited for an anti-bully, pro–free speech vigilante project.
During freshman year, Jordan Bishop committed suicide by self-immolation in the cafeteria. With online bullying blamed, the fallout for everyone else includes strict monitoring of internet activities. Eli ends up on the radar of Mouse and Seth, two other coders at his school who were friends of Jordan’s, and they bring him on as the third member of their team in an annual hacking contest with big prizes. They must find flaws in the student cybermonitoring system—but instead of hacking the monitors, they plan to bring the monitors to them with a site that offers secure anonymity to teens, enabling them to air secrets about bullies like those who targeted Jordan with classist, homophobic, and other taunts. Eli’s reluctant—his previous just-to-see-if-he-could hacks caused major damage, and this could land him in huge trouble if he’s discovered—but he is tempted by the challenge. Those targeted by the site face public humiliation and consequences for their misdeeds, but the line between justice and vengeance thins, especially when a mean-girl bully targets Eli’s Mexican-American (in a primarily white community) crush with racist nastiness. The morally complex story avoids simple answers and is taut with tension as readers wonder if Eli will go too far or get caught—only for a third-act twist to complicate things further.
Provocative, timely, and intense. (Fiction. 13-adult)