Immoral Code by Lillian Clark
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers on February 19, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Young Adult
Length: 272 pages Source: NetGalley
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For Nari, aka Narioka Diane, aka hacker digital alter ego “d0l0s," it’s college and then a career at “one of the big ones," like Google or Apple. Keagan, her sweet, sensitive boyfriend, is happy to follow her wherever she may lead. Reese is an ace/aro visual artist with plans to travel the world. Santiago is off to Stanford on a diving scholarship, with very real Olympic hopes. And Bellamy? Physics genius Bellamy is admitted to MIT—but the student loan she’d been counting on is denied when it turns out her estranged father—one Robert Foster—is loaded.
Nari isn’t about to let her friend’s dreams be squashed by a deadbeat billionaire, so she hatches a plan to steal just enough from Foster to allow Bellamy to achieve her goals.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
While I had some fundamental issues with this book, I think the YA world in may just love it.
Immoral Code tells the story of five teens, best friends since forever, taking action against injustice. Bellany is brilliant and could go full-ride to MIT… except that her umber rich father still shows up on her FAFSA and she can get an ounce of support. Even though her father abandoned her before she was born. When Bellamy tries to call him, he hangs up on her. So that’s it. No MIT.
Except her friend Narioka, hacker extraordinaire, has a different idea. What if they just… stole it? And so starts the heist!
Where heist films like Ocean’s Eleven do really well is that all the players are bringing something to the table, and they all have a good reasons for being there. In building a teen-based heist, especially one that requires a road trip and where they’re all friends and not professionals, Lillian Clark set herself up with some challenges. First of all, there is a single clear mastermind. With Nari’s age, it stands reason that it requires a little suspension of disbelief. Nari, more or less, plans this entire heist by herself. There’s an early section where she’s connecting with other hackers, but in the meat and potatoes of the story, that doesn’t seem to be happening. In fact, a lot of the planning doesn’t make it to the page. I really would have liked to see the planning before two days before the heist, but I also feel like Lillian Clark needed to use the time developing the characters and their relationships.
It took me a while to get into the characters. Firstly, this book is told with five first person POVs. I’m not crazy about multiple first person POVs; I feel like it is difficult to differentiate the characters. Even at the end of the novel, I’d occasionally have to flip back to the start of the chapter to remind myself who was speaking. Their individual voices weren’t different enough, but fortunately, I got to know each character well enough through someone else’s voice. The characters aren’t underdeveloped, they’re just difficult to connect with. That said, you know, I’m almost thirty… a sixteen year old may find these characters incredibly relatable all the time and I think that’s fantastic.
Oh, and honestly? All the asides in parentheses and second-guessing rambling drove me crazy. I understand why it’s there, but I don’t feel like it added anything.
All this negativity aside, I did end up enjoying Immoral Code. I really thought I would hate it at the beginning. I was getting frustrated with some perceived inconsistencies and the characters themselves. I still don’t like the beginning, but this really picks up in the middle and it gets better from there. There’s a scene with Reese during the heist that was absolutely fantastic, filled with life and passion. There were also a handful of scenes just before the heist where Keagan questioned the morality of it, and I think that contact was so important. While I wasn’t crazy about how things turned out with that, I appreciate that the argument was made. It was so, so necessary.
The ending seemed way too easy for me, but the journey was interesting. I think Immoral Code will appeal to any reader who enjoys YA and heist stories. Don’t expect an epic fantasy situation, a la Six of Crows or The Gilded Wolves, but it’s a great contemporary companion to the heist subgenre.