A computer-hacking teen. The girl who wants to save him. And a rogue mirror reflection that might be the death of them both.
In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain that façade. With inattentive parents who move constantly from city to city, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep living like a machine, all gears and wires.
Seventeen year old hacker, Brandon Eriks, a bad boy with multiple tattoos, piercings, dyed black, messy hair and an attitude to match, thinks he’s covered up his money-making hacking activities pretty well. Until one day he finds warning and personal messages on his computer. Things get even more bizarre when Brandon’s reflection takes on a life of its own, writing messages on mirrors and altering Brandon’s appearance by removing the metal from his piercings, ripping off his tattoos and washing the dye out of his hair. Then the unthinkable happens and Brandon is watching his life unfold from behind the mirror.
Because who found me? Who cares enough to find me? Can’t be a cop, because he’d cut to the chase and knock on my door with a warrant, not play cat and mouse on my laptop. Can’t be a bot because he knows personal details about me. Like what happened with Emma. But I can’t think of anyone, even super hackers who get their thrills hunting other hackers, who would even care what I say or do offline.
Brandon, quite different from a lot of young adult protagonists, has built up his image as a shield and perfected it over the years. His ‘don’t care’ attitude stems from the hurt of his parents’ thoughtlessness, the tattoos and piercings a reaction against his flawed family life as well as a bid for some sort of attention. He pushes people away before he can become attached or emotionally involved. The one person he can’t step away from is Emma, who believes in him and sees past the face Brandon shows to the world.
Brandon’s character evolves genuinely and substantially during the story, mostly due to his feelings for Emma. The romance itself doesn’t figure hugely in the plot which centres more on the multi layered science fiction aspect and the complex digital world in which Brandon finds himself confined. This allows him to consider and acknowledge his convoluted relationships with others, as well as his own situation, from a different perspective. N.K. Traver does a really good job of showing the reasons Brandon chooses to use his computer skills unwisely, eliciting some sympathy for an emotionally starved teen, while at the same time exploring the issue of privacy in the digital age.
N.K. Traver has created a unique concept, a great storyline, with well-developed and engaging characters, and even though it’s full of technology speak it’s not too overwhelming. The supporting characters are realistically portrayed, my favourite by far is Seb, also hurting and distrustful. For such an extraordinary storyline it’s really well done, so suspend your belief, leave it by the door and enjoy a tense and very imaginative cyber thriller that didn’t go in any of the directions I expected. An extremely good debut novel.
As with all his narrations, MacLeod Andrews’ performance is excellent, really getting inside the characters and bringing them to life individually and vividly.
Book links ~ Amazon US Amazon UK
About the author
As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N.K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said “no one could make a living” with an English degree. It wasn’t too many years later Traver realized it didn’t matter what the job paid—nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped.
Traver’s debut, DUPLICITY, a cyberthriller pitched as BREAKING BAD meets THE MATRIX for teens, is now available.
Author links ~ Website, Twitter, Goodreads