Author: N.K. Traver
Synopsis: In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain that façade. With inattentive parents who move constantly from city to city, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep living like a machine, all gears and wires.
Then two things shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, stubborn girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a mirror reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something—washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Then it tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.
And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who he’s become. Otherwise he’ll be stuck in a digital hell until he’s old and gray, and no one will even know he’s gone.
Huge thank you to Thomas Dunne Books for letting me review a finished copy of this book!
I had a love-hate relationship with this book. I HATED the first half and LOVED the middle and was okay with the end. Brandon is NOT a likable character an I’m fine with that. But he falls too neatly into the stereotypical pierced, tattooed, black-wearing “bad boy” role for me. I wanted more depth. More than just ‘my parents are always busy boo hoo I’m going to be an ass for basically no reason’. Because yes his parents ignored him, but they were also too stereotypical for me as well. So the first half of the book where we meet Brandon and his family I was just wanted more.
I was so intrigued with the hacker aspect of this book (the whole reason I requested it) and I would have liked to have seen where Brandon had learned some of his skills. A little more history. Because not just everybody can pick that up. I also would have liked to have seen MORE hacking in the beginning. The story jumps right into things and I wish there would have been more build. I also would have liked to have seen more time with Jax and his shady business.
I also really had a problem with the way Brandon treated women in this book. The only girls I really remember were Ginger (portrayed as kinda a trashy goth slut), Beretta (who actually was pretty cool), Alice (? The girl who kept trying to get his attention after he drove the BMW to school. She was portrayed as a trashy preppy slut) and Emma (a pure, delicate snowflake with a perfect body and perfect everything). Hell I didn’t like the way the girls in this book were portrayed period. And I don’t buy that it’s because it’s from a male POV. If that’s how we’re going to write males… well then. I wont get into it. But yeah.
So what I DID like was after Brandon and his duplicate “Obran” (worst. name. ever.) were traded and Brandon was taken into a super computer. That part was SO COOL. I loved the world inside the computer, how Brandon reacted to it, and his new friend Seb. I did roll my eyes a little at how obviously similar it was to Resident Evil (holographic glowing child? Zombie dogs?) but those were good additions (and would have been better if slightly more original). I liked the explanations behind the tech (even if some of it really probably wouldn’t work in real life, or now at least) and the situations that Brandon was facing. The middle portion was gripping and I flew through it.
Brandon’s “solution” to saving himself and Emma was a little confusing, but I liked that his heart was in the right place. I felt so bad for Seb and kept hoping that it was all a joke or a trick. And then the very end… left me hanging. Is there going to be another book? Should there? I’m not sure. Will I read it? Maybe!
So overall this could have been better if it had been fleshed out and a bit more genuine. If all of it had been as gripping as the middle that would have upped it a star and made for an excellent book. If you do like books with hacking and computers then this will be the right book for you!