PHANTOM WHEEL by Tracy Deebs
Kirkus Star


A Hackers Novel
Age Range: 14 - 18
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Six teen hackers must race to bring down the nefarious program they unwittingly helped create in Deebs’ (Relentless, 2016, etc.) latest cyberthriller.

When strangers and expert hackers Issa, Owen, Ezra, Alika, Seth, and Harper are invited to a hacking competition for a CIA college scholarship with a guaranteed job waiting, it’s as if all their dreams have fallen into their laps. A few weeks later, Owen, who refused to participate, uncovers the truth: The people who brought the teens together worked not for the CIA but a tech conglomerate called Jacento. The competition and “simulated” hacks were a ruse to create a supervirus dubbed Phantom Wheel, which, when delivered via Jacento’s nationwide charging stations, will grant the company virtually unlimited access to every keystroke of users’ personal data, thus infecting every company whose apps they use. Deebs pulls no punches in this high-octane yet character-driven plot as big data manipulation and corporate greed (the too-familiar horsemen of every cyberapocalypse) are juxtaposed with the teens’ past traumas and fear for their lives as they fight to bring down Jacento’s plan. Japanese-American, Colombian-American, and mixed-race identities as well as on-the-page asexual representation all effortlessly feature among this black-hat group. Despite lacking synonyms for “hacker,” Deebs does an admirable job making the digital world and its battle tactics accessible as readers cheer on the endearingly sardonic and diverse cast.

A must-read for every aspiring hacktivist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-316-47441-2
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2018


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