School is completely online in 2060, so Maddie rarely sees anyone in person, except her mom and dad. Why does this Justin guy want to meet her at a face-to-face Tutor session? She could just see him online 24/7, like her other friends all over the world. Anyway, her dad grounded her till age 18 after she went into his DigitalSchool computer two years ago.

Her parents say that Justin is dangerous, that his parents were terrorists, that he’s only trying to see 17-year-old Maddie because of her dad’s DigitalSchool business. But Justin actually speaks to her like a thinking human being, showing her the real Portland with pastries instead of nutri-bars and live musicians instead of soundfiles online.

It seems that not everyone is happy with DigitalSchool. Justin wants her to sneak more information from her dad’s computer so they can crash that system and give kids the chance to get outside, away from computer-simulated beach views and back to the real sand and sea, away from thousands of online friends they’ve never seen and back to interacting with real friends.

During a dangerous DS student “rescue” with Justin, Maddie has to decide whether she’ll abide by her dad’s authoritarian rules or risk losing her place in 2060’s society. Can she trust Justin? Could she really live where trees aren’t plastic and sunsets aren’t on a computer screen? Is there something malicious in DigitalSchool, something bad enough for Maddie to risk life in prison?

A glimpse of a potential future where keeping the peace may be more dangerous to humanity than allowing conflicting ideas…

Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA


In the year 2060, computers have taken over people’s lives, replacing activities like exercise, dating, socializing, and education. In fact, there’s very little reason to go outside at all anymore, and people seem just fine with that. The sole daughter of the founder of digital school, teenaged Madeline finds her digitized life to be perfectly safe…and perfectly predictable. A smart girl with a healthy rebellious streak, she is overjoyed when she breaks social convention to meet Justin, an online acquaintance, face to face in the real world.

Justin, 20 years old and tousle-haired, is attractive, insightful, and just a little bit dangerous. Not surprisingly, Maddie doesn’t take long to fall under his spell and open her eyes to the world around her. With Justin, she experiences so many things that she has been missing her whole life: the smell and feel of sand beneath her feet, the uninhibited joy of dancing to live music, the pleasures in interacting with real live human beings, holding a real paper book in her hands, eating and cooking real food instead of chomping down processed meal bars and supplements.

Just as quickly as Maddie falls head over heels for Justin, though, she realizes that her friendship with him was more than the result of mere chance encounter: he and his rebellious friends want her to join them in their fight against digital school. Suddenly, Maddie has to choose between family and friends, between the real world and computers, between the sterile safety of digital environments and the rights of people to choose their own paths. Maddie’s life that will never be the same…but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Kacvinsky spins a chillingly realistic vision of the future which will serve as a reminder to readers to log off of their phones and Facebook once in a while and enjoy their real lives and relationships too.

320 pages. Recommended by Molly Crumbley, Librarian, Maryland USA

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