Complications arise in this YA novel when a brilliant teenage coder’s anonymous sex education blog goes viral and a friendship becomes romantic.
Amber Henderson is a senior at private Wilmont Academy—possibly “the last non-religious school on the planet still operating under the abstinence only policy.” Because plenty of kids are having sex anyway, they really need some good advice, such as how to obtain reliable birth control. Amber can rely on her sex-positive parents, but she’d love to help the less fortunate. She and Dean Winters vie for the title of the school’s most talented coder, so when he proposes a bet (for bragging rights and a deadmau5 T-shirt) to get under Principal Tanner’s skin via hacking, Amber has a perfect idea. She’ll set up an untraceable sex advice blog on the dark web, making sure everyone knows it’s written by a Wilmont student, and help information-starved students while riling Tanner. Though Amber and Dean are both hot as well as gifted and share much in common, she considers him out of her league; she’s also tormented by memories of a bad encounter with her ex-boyfriend. The coders’ growing relationship is put sorely to the test when Tanner blackmails Dean into uncovering who’s behind the increasingly popular blog. Lee (Love Beyond Opposites, 2018, etc.) sets up a classic confrontation between cool kids and an uptight administrator: They’re smart, funny, and gorgeous while he’s venal, underhanded, and vindictive. The point of view alternates between Amber and Dean, each voice distinctive but both capturing a true teenage feel. Their developing romance is sweet and sizzling, with a lot of sensitivity toward Amber’s fears. That Dean can’t figure out the identity of the advice-giver is somewhat contrived as an obstacle, given that he and Amber are the only two members of the Code Club. Another tip-off is that Amber’s mother writes erotica and her father is a teen psychologist. The emotions can become melodramatically overwrought, and both main characters are altogether a bit too flawless, especially in looks. Still, it’s an engaging novel that nicely illuminates the coder subculture and deals honestly with teenage sexuality.
An entertaining, well-told love story/drama.