The Chaos of Now
By Erin Lange
Published by Faber and Faber
ISBN 978 0 571 31747 9
Erin Lange knows that the modern world can be a chaotic place for young adults finding their way through society with all its pitfalls and pressures. Lange writes stories for our time, and is unafraid to go headlong into spaces where other YA writers are cautious to tread.
The Chaos of Now is a thrilling tech-driven read that exposes the destructive power of social media and the effects of cyberbullying. Plots don’t come much more morally complex or timely than this.
The story focuses on 16-year-old coding prodigy, Eli Bennett. Eli is a student at Haver High School, but he has no interest in what school is offering him. He knows what he wants to do with his life: become a top rank coder. Eli and his computer are inseparable, and his talent is approaching genius level.
A year ago, Haver High School hit national headlines when one of the students died as a result of terrible cyberbullying. The fallout from this event has had ramifications for every student in the country.
Strict monitoring of all student internet activities was introduced at government level. But has that been enough to stop the activities of trolls and cyberbullies?
It is now 12 months since Jordan Bishop died, but no matter what the laws are enacted, or how much monitoring of online exchanges there is, nothing can bring him back, and the bullies who destroyed him are still at large.
Two of Jordan’s friends, Mouse and Seth, are also coders at Haver High School. They decide to take things into their own hands and avenge their friend. They recruit Eli as the third member of their undercover team.
The boys plan to enter a coding competition, and use the event as a cover so they can create an anonymous website that will lure the students who tormented Jordan into a deadly trap. The trio are intelligent enough to know that what they plan seriously blurs the lines between right and wrong.
Eli has already anonymously hacked into a police website that has caused a breach of security, and he is aware that if this comes to light he will be in trouble. But what Mouse and Seth are suggesting is tempting. And the cyberbullies should be brought to justice.
The Chaos of Now provides intense thrills and throws up morally complex questions. The story is extremely strong and taut with tension, and Lange is clever enough to not throw in simple solutions as the plot reaches its climax.
Lange’s latest novel tells a compelling tale. The imperfect teens at the centre of the story are memorable characters and their situation will draw readers in and keep them on the edge of their seats.
John Millen can be contacted at [email protected]il.com