After a young boy is shot and killed, a group of high-school friends wages a digital war against a local gang in Muggington’s (People of the Stones, 2013, etc.) techno-thriller.
A gunshot immediately stops a basketball game in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, and a young man named Clown is devastated to see that his baby brother, Sam, has been killed. Clown’s friend Mountain holds the disreputable Original Young Gangsters responsible for the murder, and proposes a club, Force for Good, to seek justice. The club, including a brilliant computer hacker named Ordinary, decides to nonviolently retaliate in the only way they know how—by using the Internet as a weapon. Muggington offers a buoyant story that, despite its cruel thugs and occasional murders, reads like a YA novel. This is due to the author’s wise decision to tell the tale from the high-schoolers’ perspective; Mountain, for example, considers school a “waste of time,” and the story portrays all adults as useless, from the basketball coach who doesn’t know his players’ names to the New York mayor who’s so inept that an aide has to pull him away from a cluster of reporters. FFG’s digital vengeance is amusingly optimistic, steering clear of cyber attacks and instead putting OYG members in the public spotlight to diminish their street cred. Although Mountain starts the club, Ordinary drives the narrative; his skills eventually catch the attention of both the cops and the National Security Agency. He even gets the best jokes, as when he scoffs at the supposed “geniuses” at an Apple Store before hacking its electronics; when asked by Mountain to “speak English,” he reiterates the same intricate terminology, only slower. The author sprinkles the story with ironic monikers; for example, Sexpot, a female FFG member, infiltrates the OYG without using sex, and Ordinary is anything but. There are also clever, animal-inspired metaphors, as when Mountain pokes his head out of an elevator “like a groundhog in its earthy home checking for predators” or when scrolling numbers on a computer are compared with “ants scattering from the descending doom of a giant shoe.” The ending, however, wraps things up a little too neatly, and may make readers wish that this brief book was a bit longer.
A surprisingly upbeat thriller with loads of charm.