Marcus is a seventeen year old high school student and computer whiz in San Francisco. He is a generally good kid but prone to hacking and when the story opens he is called into the principals office on suspicion of just that but as usual there is no evidence.
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Later that day he and his friend Darryl skip out of school to play a massive online game that involves a real world scavenger hunt. Shortly after they get downtown they run into some other classmates doing the same thing and join up, but moments later a series of explosions rip across the city.
In the ensuing panic they first try to seek shelter in the subway, but Darryl is stabbed in the crowd and Marcus flags down a military vehicle to seek help. Instead of helping them the soldiers detain the teenagers, throwing bags over their heads and piling them into the vehicle. Marcus finds himself separated from his friends, and a prisoner in a undisclosed location, which he guesses must be one of the islands in the San Francisco Bay.
The authorities in charge of it declare themselves to be the Department of Homeland Security and question him again and again about the attacks, which Marcus is entirely ignorant about. During his imprisonment he is refused any of his civil rights and they won't disclose Darryl's condition. After a week he is suddenly released with no explanation, and given a warning that the DHS will be monitoring his every move.
He gets home to find his parents thought he had died in the attack and that the entire city is under martial law. He also discovers that although the other kids were also released, Darryl is still missing. After finding that the DHS has bugged his laptop he decides to mount a counterattack using his hacking skills. He modifies a new model of Xbox and a operating system called Paranoid so it will connect to the internet anonymously and distributes the software to similarly minded kids he knows.
Soon there is a nationwide network of mostly teenagers reporting on DHS activities in their area. After initially helping him in hopes of finding Darryl, the friends who were detained with him become too scared of disappearing themselves and retire from the network. But Marcus meets a girl named Ange who is just as passionate and technically accomplished as himself and the two become allies and later a couple.
Finally Marcus receives a note from someone who claims to have been detained with Darryl, saying that he is still alive and imprisoned. Unable to contain his emotions he reveals everything he has been up to to his parents who contact a reporter in hopes of blowing the story so big that the DHS will not be able to retaliate against the kids.
But they are hot on his heels and until the information is safely out there Marcus and Ange decide to go underground, using a flashmob as a cover.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's a scary glimpse at what could very easily be a real world scenario, but also offers practical ways it could be avoided.
Best scene in story:
The terror attack scene is believable and scary and sets the scene nicely for the rest of the book with the sudden switch from kids goofing off to catastrophic event.
Opinion about the main character:
He's an idealistic teenager which is admirable but sometimes makes him naive. I can remember being like him at that age, even though now I recognize myself in his far more cautious parents.