Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Hacker: Malorie Blackman, January 20—23, 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Malorie Blackman’s classic Hacker got itself another whirl this week. Told through the eyes of schoolgirl and amateur programmer Victoria, we hear of her father’s supposedly wrongful arrest for stealing £1million from the bank at which he works. Victoria and her adoptive brother set about trying to unmask the real culprit to exonerate their dad.
There’s an awful lot right with this book. Bearing in mind the target audience, the plot is clever. Although simplistic, the obligatory red herrings are coupled with genuine clues that, with enough thought, might lead you to work it out. That is mystery writing at its best – a clever solution that is not immediately obvious but retrospectively leaves you smacking your head for not linking the nuggets hidden throughout the narrative.
As any self-respecting young adult (okay, kids’) book should, Hacker has a good bit of school angst. Nothing sets up a story like school – a familiar setting to which we can all relate. Blackman even worked a bit of foreshadowing into it! There’s also a well thought-out home life for Victoria, with a complex sibling relationship and an adoption backstory that still forms part of her character now.
The strangest aspect of Hacker is the unexpected semi-update that it’s received. Originally written in the early 1990s, it now sees Victoria reading Harry Potter. Despite this, banks still apparently have atrocious security and allow non-complex passwords. Being juvenile fiction, it would be unfair to pull apart the contrivances but when so many of the salient plot points remain dated, bizarre cultural reference corrections don’t seem to make sense. In my view, the story would have retained more integrity had it just been allowed to age. A minor confusing quibble, though, and not one that takes away from the book.
A quick read with a good pace, Hacker is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.