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This debut YA novel finds a withdrawn teenage nerd mingling with the in-crowd and potential cyberterrorists.

Young Matty Weber struggles with PTSD after watching his parents die in a car fire. He moves in with his grandmother in Southern California and settles into his socially awkward life. The 16-year-old is understandably taken aback when popular cheerleader Samantha Carter strikes up a conversation. She needs his computer prowess to find a deleted file—video footage of a sexual assault—likely still hiding in the cloud. But does she want to recover this footage or ensure that it’s gone for good?

As Matty and his best friend, Gabriel Mason, struggle with this dilemma, their social status gets an unexpected boost. While Matty has long had trust issues, Gabriel willingly loses himself in the popular set. At the same time, cyberterrorist attacks in major cities worldwide shock everyone, and computer viruses secretly hit casinos around the globe. While Gabriel suggests this “cyber event” has ties to Samantha’s request, he is stunned when someone in his new clique winds up kidnapped. In this series opener, DiBarone intentionally keeps readers in the dark, delivering enigmatic details ranging from a mysterious figure on the day of the car fire to drones that apparently monitor the teens. The latter half pieces together most of the puzzle but leaves some bits for the sequel to presumably pick up. Still, this engrossing book introduces a bright, sympathetic hero whose PTSD triggers dreams of his parents as well as headaches and fainting spells. The supporting cast is equally intriguing.

Gabriel’s reliability wavers and it’s not easy to tell if Samantha is using Matty or harboring genuine feelings for him. The author’s straightforward prose smartly tackles such issues as bullying and low self-esteem. But the story is sometimes too on-the-nose; for example, Matty constantly engages in or starts discussions about trust. The ending boasts a surprising resolution considering that this is the first installment of a saga. 

A memorable cast bolsters this captivating blend of teen drama and techno-thriller.

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