Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Review: Hacking Harvard

Title Hacking Harvard
Author Robin Wasserman
Genre YA Commercial Fiction
Rating A+

Summary Three friends want to perpetrate the greatest hack (not to be confused with a prank) ever... they want to get a burn-out into Harvard to prove that the admissions process is a joke. Also, on a side note, they've made a bet with another group of hackers and there's a lot of money to be had if they can pull it off... if they aren't thwarted by "cheaters."

First Line "'I'm in.' The shadowy figure slipped down the hall, infared goggles giving the familiar surroundings an eerie green haze. Dressed in head-to-toe black, a mask shielding his face, he would have been invisible to the security cameras if his partner hadn't already disabled them. Five minutes, blueprints from the firewalled Atlantis Security site, a pair of wire clippers--and the job was done."

Review From the beginning I loved Eric, Schwarz (Carl Schwarzbaum), and Max. Their dialogue was snappy, funny, irreverent, perfect. I was surprised this this was written by a chick--chicks usually screw up male characters, but Robin (which, admittedly, is a unisex name) Wasserman did her job well. (Plus, big hint, the narrator isn't a guy... and that revelation was awesome.)

What I really liked about this book, in addition to the characters and their incredibly great dialogue, was the actual plot of this book. The pacing was just right--actually, I read it so fast, that I'm dying to go back and re-read so I can experience it all over again--and the scenarios were so believable (in so much as climbing in a tree to beam the answers to the SATs into the school can be believable).

Also, the idea behind the book is really cool. College admissions are a tricky mistress and the question of whether what college you go to is what can make or break you is an interesting issue. The "About the Author" section says, "Robin Wasserman has always harbored a certain nostalgia for the college applications process... That is, until she began writing this book and remembered what it was really like. She now realizes she would rather have her wisdom teeth removed--without anesthesia--than go through it all again. Which is to say: She feels your pain. Having survived high school, college admissions, and college itself (which proved almost worth all the trouble)..." As someone who's undergrad degree was so flagrantly wasteful (BA in Religious Studies? Hello...) that I gave my diploma away in a white elephant gift exchange, I'm not sure I'm the most reliable person to answer the question, but the question is meaningful none the less.

I recommend this book to every high school student in the United States. High recommendation, right?

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