Review Blog

Jan 23 2019

The chaos of now by Erin Lange

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Faber and Faber, 2018. ISBN: 9780571317479.
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Themes: Suicide, Bullying, Cyberbullying, Schools, Power, Monitoring. A disturbing opening page will ensure young adults read to the last page, so incensed at the suicide that they will want to see the bullies brought to justice. That Jordan was being bullied was not a secret, but his response shocked the school into placing cybermonitors on the computing system to stop such things happening again. Eli is amazed at this response by the school; all done without consultation or getting to the main problem. Lip service is given to making people aware, having anti bullying signs around the school and a gratuitous memorial service for Jordan after 12 months has elapsed. It makes Eli sick, but he has problems of his own with his father bringing home a woman to live in the house, and a nasty run in with one of the school bullies, Malcolm.
A computer nerd, Eli is a coder, one of a small group of people for whom the binary system is a language he can speak without fear, able to hack into the school's computer system with ease, at one stage hacking into the local police system, with disastrous consequences. Two other geeks seek him out. They were friends of Jordan and had planned to enter and win a computer hacking competition which would bring them to the attention of corporations and the possibility of work in an area they know well. With Jordan gone, Eli is their next choice. But they are not just interested in winning a competition. They want to heap revenge upon those students who bullied Jordan, and they use their computer skills to achieve this.
This is an up to the minute look at the skills of the millenials, able to use computers for their own ends, stretching the notions of morality confining earlier users of technology, seeing possibilities and uses beyond those proposed by their teachers. This is a most unsettling look at the problem of cyber bullying, where the skills of those perpetrators outstrip those of the monitors and Eli and his friends represent those who are willing to use their skills to bring down those who would bully. But have they turned into bullies themselves? In posting some of the videos they illegally access online, exposing one as a drug cheat, another as a racist another dressing in his mother's clothes for a video, the question arises about who is bullying who? Eli at first sees himself as exposing wrong, but in doing this he becomes a vigilante, one who is outside the law, taking the law into his own hands.
The line between right and wrong, black and white becomes very blurred and makes for a read which will make people think about the consequences of cyber bullying and how to deal with it. Readers will want to know how Eli comes out of this, after all he and the others have committed criminal acts.
Fran Knight

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