In the young adult mystery novel Botheration, teenagers contend both with ordinary problems and a cyber terrorism investigation.
In Vito DiBarone’s edgy mystery novel Botheration: Part One: The Missing Link, high school students seek the truth behind a pool party incident while also dealing with the impact of cyber terrorist events.
When he was twelve, Matty survived the fire that killed his parents. He was sent to California to live with his grandmother. Now sixteen, he’s a tenth-grade genius who’s resolved to make his life count, despite his lingering trauma. With his friend Gabriel, he engages in extracurricular experiments that test his computer skills.
When cyber terrorism strikes cause temporary mass hypnotism, fluctuations in the power grid, and worldwide slot machine payouts, Matty and Gabriel are tapped for their computer help. They’re asked for this assistance by a beautiful cheerleader, Samantha, and an athlete, Mark. Their task involves recovering digital evidence about what happened on the night that Mark and his friends crashed Samantha’s party—a decision that led to damaging allegations.
Matty and Gabriel’s friendship is cemented by their similar home circumstances. Their concerns about crushes, and their doubts about whether helping their classmates is wise, drive the book’s compelling early chapters. They also muse on what trust entails, and how it’s given or earned; they question people’s sudden interest in them as a result.
In contrast, Matty and Gabriel’s classmates are merely sketched in. They are often made to illustrate complicated social dynamics: uncertainty about the boundaries between genuine friendships and enemy designations swirl throughout the story. But despite references to Matty and Gabriel having come from a different background than their wealthier peers, few of the teenagers are distinctive. Matty’s grandmother is also under developed—she’s present most to insert warm advice. Further, the book’s conversations are too stilted and formal.
When the novel switches to Samantha’s point of view, it is an abrupt and disruptive development. She investigates Matty, resulting in additional doubt about the depth of her initial sincerity. Then the book steps back into Matty’s perspective, delivering a meandering account about his growing rapport with a teacher and an additional act of cyber terrorism.
That few people other than the central teenagers seem to question what’s happening around them is discombobulating. Further, a dilemma around Matty and Gabriel trying to breach the cloud is waylaid so that the story can focus on how Gabriel is drifting away from Matty. The addition of a kidnapping story line is jarring as well. It results in an improbable rescue attempt, as well as rushed revelations about a predictable adversary, whose efforts to recruit Matty into his plans are heavy-handed. Elements of brainwashing are also introduced; they are too easily resolved, and questions remain because of them.
A boy’s troubled past seeps into his present in the young adult mystery novel Botheration, in which teenagers contend with ordinary problems—and a cyberterrorism investigation.
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