"Little Brother" pulls no punches. Read it
There is probably no book more likely to be banned this summer than Little Brother. Every kid should read it
Napoleon was denounced as dangerously liberal when he introduced a law forbidding husbands from beating their wives with any wooden implement thicker than their thumb. Even the most hide-bound American conservative is traitorously liberal by the standards of 200 years ago. In fact, the history of these past two centuries could be seen as the record of humanity being dragged, kicking and screaming, out of a nightmare of violence and hatred inconceivable to us now--while at every stage, there's been people desperately trying to drag us back.
This long war--the real long war, and the only one--has its set-backs. It's up to each generation to re-invent civilization, to reaffirm it and to fight once again against fear, prejudice and easy solutions. Often, the weapon of enlightenment for a generation is a book. Sometimes, those books are just so much damned fun to read that you forget, for a while, that their purpose is deadly serious.
Little Brother is huge fun. It's nominally a "young-adult" novel (whatever that means) but it doesn't condescend to its readership. People die in this story. People--good people, whom we cheer for--are tortured. Not everything turns out okay. But there's also triumph here, and it's our triumph, because Little Brother is a novel that is also a resistance-fighter's toolkit, a manual for subversives, and an inspiration. There is probably no book more likely to be banned and burned this summer than Little Brother. Every kid should read it.
Want specifics? Well, the story begins with San Francisco's Bay Bridge being blown up by terrorists. Four thousand people are killed, and a small group of high school students is rounded up in a random sweep by the Department of Homeland Security, and treated very, very badly. One of them, Marcus Yallow, vows revenge when they're released, because his best friend Darryl has not been released. He hasn't even been acknowledged to be missing. He's just gone. (Is this likely? Ask Maher Arar.)
The book is the story of Marcus's (successful) war to take down the DHS. If that were all, Little Brother would still be a great read, a wonderful revenge fantasy against the stupidities of the past eight years. The thing is, that Little Brother doesn't just show Marcus taking down the DHS; it shows how he does it. How you could do it.
This is where Little Brother leaves fictional territory, and becomes the kind of book that gets banned. It teaches kids how to spoof government security measures. It teaches them how to become invisible to the DHS's spying eyes. It unlocks the secrets of cryptography, hacking, and disinformation. It gives all these tools to you. More importantly, it gives all these tools to your kids.
I'm old enough to remember previous salvos in the long war. Back in 1974 Alan Wingard published The Graffiti Gambit, about a TV-signal hacker who scrawls graffiti across the faces of politicians as they're giving speeches on TV. It's a grim book: our hero's arrested, tortured, and eventually lobotomized by the Feds. I was about 12 when I read it, the same age many of Cory's readers are going to be. If you're under 25 today, Little Brother will serve as a good introduction to what's been going on all these years--updated for the 21st century.
If you'd like another perspective on the book, from someone who is under 25, check out Madeline Ashby's review. She's more qualified than me to talk about the impact this novel is going to have. Check out her comments, and then order your copy.