Author: Kevin Brooks

Publication: 2011, Chicken House

Pages: 288

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Rating for Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Quantity of Action:bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Tom is walking to see his friend Lucy, when an iPhone dropped from 30 stories hits him in the head and fractures his skull.  Parts of the shattered phone are embedded in his brain.  And somehow those bits of phone interact with his brain to create something new.  Tom becomes a human iPhone, able to hack any computer, track any text or email, access and sift through any information on the web.   And the energy coursing through his body is enough to shock people.  Those new powers have arrived just in time for Tom to avenge Lucy, who has been raped by a local gang.  But Tom’s quest for retribution and his new role as a vigilante soon spirals out of control, placing both him and Lucy in terrible danger.

Age of Main Character: 15

What I Liked the Most: First, this is an utterly cool idea for a superhero.  Take a bit of every day modern technology, meld it with an average kid in a very unique way, and let the powers flow.  And believe me, Brooks takes those powers in some fairly unique and unexpected directions.

Second, while I love a good superhero romp – with tons of heroes and villains battling it out in tongue-and-cheek violence – iBoy takes a regular kid with super powers and tosses him into the hellish world of a huge public housing complex, a place of violence, drugs, and broken dreams.  It’s gritty and real, and when Tom uses his powers it has real consequences for him and the people he cares about.

Finally, the setting itself is all too believable.  Brooks paints the blighted neighborhood of Crown Town in clear and simple strokes – no romanticizing it, no pulling his punches.  It’s a bleak place, but seen through Tom’s eyes we also know it’s a place where love can blossom, a place worth fighting for.

What I Liked the Least: I wasn’t all that into Tom’s voice.  It works, but to be blunt I sometimes found the writing a bit repetitive.  Tom has a tendency to keep repeating himself, saying the same thing in three different ways in the space of a few sentences.

Take this very typical example:

I wanted to tell her she didn’t have to cover it up for my sake, but I wasn’t sure if it was an appropriate thing to say.  I mean, if she wanted to cover it up, if it made her feel better, who was I to tell her any different?

The truth is, I simply didn’t know what to say to her.

What do you say to a girl who’s been raped?

What can you say?

The first paragraph was really all we needed, maybe the second.  The last two were overkill.

That said, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression.  This is a breezy conversational style, and it really does flow.  It’s even authentic.  There were just times when it came off as overly repetitive, and I found myself tuning parts of it out.

How Good was the Action? Excellent.  Like Brook’s book The Road of the Dead, the action here is brief but brutal, and each scene feels intensely real.  There are no chases, no long drawn-out fights – just quick, utterly authentic clashes.  And the hard eyes of the gang members, combined with iBoy’s own growing ferocity and lack of remorse make the action feel even more brutal than it really is.

How Engaging was the Story?  It’s hard not to get caught up in Tom’s quest for revenge, especially once it begins to spiral out of control, forcing him to question everything that he’s done –his own brutality, his own lawlessness – to wonder how Lucy could ever care about the person he’s become.  It’s powerful stuff, wrapped in a sheen of superhero cool and ugly violence, and it’s hard to put down.

Overall Assessment: A dark, violent, and starkly realistic take on the traditional superhero tale.  This one’s more in the tradition of The Dark Knight than the earlier rock’em-sock’em Batman stories.

Profanity: Yes – and quite bit of it.  Brooks does not hold back.

Sex:  There’s nothing graphic here – just a few kisses.  But Lucy is raped, and even though it happens off screen we hear about it.  So there is plenty of sexual violence in the air.

Violence:  Absolutely.  There are definitely bloodier books out there, no question.  But Brooks doesn’t shy away from violence, and even if most of his scenes don’t involve a lot of gore the sense of danger and violence bursts off the page.


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