Technophobic teenager Peter Dempsey becomes a computer whiz after being struck by lightning, flinging him into a crime caper that involves rogue prodigy Terry Williams and a new best friend named Granger, one of the many â€œpackets” that live inside his computer.
The author deftly interweaves three stories: that of average Peter, a cynical teen with annoyingly attentive and happy-go-lucky parents and an older cheerleader sis; mischief-maker Terry, a tech whiz just out of high school who works for his wealthy dad’s company developing patches for computer viruses; and the characters of Packet World, â€œpackets” being the little helpers that transport data throughout the Internet who only Peter can see and hear. The connecting thread of these three tales is a level-five supervirus that sets off Peter’s beat-the-clock effort to save his newfound friends–and the future of the Internet itself. With both humor (Peter mistaking the overly talkative packets for a â€œscreen saver from hell”) and real-world analogies (Granger instructs Peter to â€œthink of bits as atoms and packets as molecules”), Sheerin avoids alienating young readers with confusing tech jargon while injecting personality into an often-cold and geeky world. The characters are so sturdily built–from the foreshadowing of Terry’s destructive behavior through his high school pranks to Peter’s sister’s frustration at the virus cutting into her online chat time–and the scenes so meticulously detailed (Terry uses an all-night library to cover his tracks) that it’s easy to imagine this very visual novel as the next Pixar film. When readers finally see Terry’s dirty work from the packets’ point of view, it resembles a horrific, all-out zombie attack. Though the book might be a bit mature–Peter talking to Granger about â€œromance and even sex”–for the younger end of its recommended audience, older readers should have no problem logging in.