Welcome to My Book Bag!

I'm Susan Aikens. Welcome to my blog about kids' books, My Book Bag. I'm one of those people who is always "selling" books to friends, relatives, and even to strangers in bookstores who mistake me for an employee. This blog is an extension of that. Here you'll find impartial reviews of new and time-tested fiction and non-fiction books for kids, ages 6 through teen. I'll also let you know about promising new authors and emerging trends in children's literature. Hopefully, you'll find these reviews helpful as you select titles for your child, your classroom, or yourself.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

iBoy by Kevin Brooks


Chickenhouse, an imprint of Scholastic Inc
$17.99 cloth, due 11/11.  Young adult, intended for ages 14-18.

I've been a huge Kevin Brooks fan ever since I read his first novel, Martyn Pig.  His books are not for everyone; his teen characters are often caught in dark, violent, & morally ambiguous situations. iBoy, which is due to release in November, is definitely for the older teen or young adult as it deals with murder, rape, & gang violence.   That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book which should be subtitled, "With great power comes great responsibility".  Yes, that is a Spider Man reference.

In iBoy, a 16- year-old boy named Tom is hit in the head by an iPhone thrown from the 30th floor of his public housing building.  Parts of the iPhone are embedded in his brain.  After his release from the hospital, Tom discovers that he has all the abilities of an iPhone, including access to the web, the ability to make calls, & the ability to serve as his own camera. He is also able to defend himself by emitting an electrical charge that disables attackers. 

Tom puts all his new found powers to use as he attempts to avenge the gang rape of his best friend, Lucy.  Tom & Lucy's neighborhood is rife with drugs & gang violence.  After Lucy's attack, both she & her brother are afraid to identify her assailants because of the real threat of further retaliation. 

Yes, this plot sounds far-fetched, but Brooks saves it from being just a sci-fi thriller by grounding his characters within their world & by realistically portraying their emotions, reactions & moral dilemmas.  Tom is devastated by his inability to protect Lucy & he struggles with how far he can or should go to bring her attackers to justice.  In one scene, Tom sends a fake text to the girlfriend of one of the attackers that implies his involvement with another girl.  The ensuing confrontation ends with the boy being stabbed.  Tom is horrified & realizes that he is ultimately responsible for the boy's injuries.  Just because he can, doesn't mean he should. 

I loved Tom & Lucy. Their conversations as they try to reestablish their friendship after Lucy's rape are very moving.  Tom's questioning of a gang member about why he blindly follows the gang leader is chilling & disturbing because it is so mundane.  Once I got past my disbelief over the opening chapter which establishes the "iPhone in the head" premise, I was sucked into this gripping story.  I strongly recommend iBoy for older teens & adults.

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