Saturday, 9 July 2011
iBoy is a short novel by acclaimed young-adult author, Kevin Brooks. The premise is exactly what the title suggests; a teenage boy is granted the powers of an iPhone after an "accident" embedded one of Apple's popular mobile device into his brain. The boy, Tom Harvey, must now work out his powers (including zapping dudes, hacking into phones and surfing the web through his mind, all while keeping up an impenetrable electrical skin) and use them to right the wrongs of his gritty London council estate. But he'll soon learn that his powers might just be a curse rather than a blessing...
It's a fun idea that in the wrong hands could end up being a little childish or even camp, but luckily Brooks keeps some very adult themes running through, such as gang violence, drugs and rape. I for one was certainly not expecting this level of grittiness when I first picked up the book, and have to say I was not quite ready for the many f-bombs that started dropping. Plus there is a sense of good and evil throughout that questions our hero's morals as he fights not only the gangs, but himself for his love, Lucy.
iBoy feels like a very internal story about the main character, Tom/iBoy, as he struggles to cope with his abilities in the dangerous and violent world just outside his flat. As a first person novel, it delves deep into the protagonist's feelings and emotions, making for some emotive reading outside of the few action sequences. And the structure as a whole takes a unique turn with chapters listed in binary code (10011, 10100 etc) and a variety of relevant quotes at the start of each chapter, often involving gangs, technology or feelings.
At times it can be light hearted with strains of humour and pop-culture references (Spider-Man gets mentioned more that a few times), and then take a heavy, darker tone as iBoy attempts to take down the gang underworld. In between this there's a lot of filler that at times doesn't seem particularly productive to the overall narrative, but is still easy page-turning fodder.
But when the story hits climax point, things get incredibly tense and will have you on the edge of your seat (despite the near-twist that borders on cheesy). Once its done however, I doubt it'll stick in your mind that long and isn't exactly what I'd call re-read material, but it works as a nice little hero-complex story to wind down with. I'm not sure whether it would've worked out better as a graphic novel of some sort, due to its firm "superhero origin story" roots, but that's an argument for another day. For now, I'll just accept it as a decent emotive story about love, fear, good and evil, that thankfully isn't what the cover might suggest.