Book Review - Hackerteen: Volume 1: Internet Blackout by Marcelo Marques
I've mentioned in the past that I occasionally pick up and read material that isn't my normal fare. When offered a chance to read the graphic novel Hackerteen: Volume 1: Internet Blackout by Marcelo Marques, I figured this would be my foray into different stuff. While I don't know that I'm the best person to review something like this, I'll say that it probably does a good job with what it sets out to do.
This first volume sets the stage. Yago is spending a ton of time in front of his computer, and his parents are worried. They find a school called Hackerteen that teaches students how to ethically explore and prevent computer crime. Yago is under the age limit, but impresses HackerIP (the head of the school and the "greatest" hacker in the country) with a test of his skill. As such, he's accepted into the program, becomes part of the team that is the upper echelon of the school, and is called upon to stop a hacker threat that will take down the entire Internet. But at the same time, he's been conned into planting a computer virus that threatens to do great harm, all because he wanted to earn some extra money to help his father keep his bakery afloat after a huge grocery store moves in across the street. He has to admit to his ethical lapse and clear his mentor of the charges being leveled against him. But don't expect to get full resolution here... Volume 2 is due out soon. :)
Here's where we get into the "your mileage may vary" part. Nearly all the books I read have more words in one chapter than this has in the entire volume. So, we're not talking about a major transfer of technical knowledge in the 101 pages of Hackerteen. I'm also old enough to remember when something like this was called a comic book, not a "graphic novel". Conversely, far too many kids don't read much of anything unless it's entertaining or assigned by a teacher. In Hackerteen, the author weaves in themes of ethical behavior, teamwork, and questioning authority. That last one comes into play with electronic voting machines that are "certified" to be accurate, as well as hacking laws that make it possible to convict just about anyone using a computer. It's not a stretch to see how the government has tried (unfortunately with a fair amount of success) to do these exact things. A 12 year old may not care much about voting machines that they won't be able to use for another six years. On the other hand, a graphical novel such as this can start them down the road of thinking for themselves.
There are URL links at the bottom of many of the pages that *should* give additional information on some of the subjects mentioned in the story. But when I went to the site, it was lacking any content, and the navigation didn't work half the time (in either IE or Firefox). That's too bad, as I think a strong website working hand-in-hand with the book would be a powerful combination. Still, I think Hackerteen does accomplish what it sets out to do... Educate young minds about hacker ethics in a way they'll understand and read.