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Marcus is intelligent and tech savvy enough to thwart the efforts of his school administrators who keep tabs on his activities. But when terrorists attack San Francisco while Marcus is skipping class with his friends, his whereabouts make him suspect and he is picked up by Homeland Security.
As fear grips the city, Marcus is dismayed at how easily people, including his liberal parents, are willing to sacrifice their personal liberties for a false sense of security. Marcus utilizes his knowledge of technology to embark on an underground campaign against Homeland Security.
Doctorow effectively explores the often times conflicting ideals of national security and personal liberties. Marcus loses friends over their differing reactions to the terrorist attacks and the activities of Homeland Security. He engages in spirited debate with his parents and slowly comprehends their reversal of values. And most importantly, he experiences the impact of the unintended consequences of his well-intentioned actions.
While some adult readers might be turned off by the teen love interest, the issues and conversations raised by Marcus’ situation feel very authentic and pose fascinating questions for teens and adults alike.