Author: John M. Cusick
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: August 2010
Genre/Format: Science Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: David and Charlie are opposites. David has a million friends, online and off. Charlie is a soulful outsider, off the grid completely. But neither feels close to anybody. When David’s parents present him with a hot Companion bot designed to encourage healthy bonds and treat his “dissociative disorder,” he can’t get enough of luscious redheaded Rose — and he can’t get it soon. Companions come with strict intimacy protocols, and whenever he tries anything, David gets an electric shock. Parted from the boy she was built to love, Rose turns to Charlie, who finds he can open up, knowing Rose isn’t real. With Charlie’s help, the ideal “companion” is about to become her own best friend. In a stunning and hilarious debut, John Cusick takes rollicking aim at internet culture and our craving for meaningful connection in an uberconnected world.
What I Think: This book had me intrigued when I found it was about a near-future world where kids' relationships are so different because of the heightened use of technology. It's amazing to think of how different the world is now from when I was a kid or from when my parents were kids. I try to remind myself continually how kids lack a perspective of how life was like without technology. I didn't have a computer in my house until I was in at least junior high but I did have a computer through high school and college. Now, my husband and I both have laptops and iPads. Our kids love the iPads and are able to navigate them as easily as we are. Even my two year old can push the button to light up the iPad and then swipe to unlock the screen, swipe to find the app he wants, and figure out how to get into a game or show without any help. It's amazing. He has totally tried to use the television or the laptop screen as a touch screen. It's so cute to watch but also a reminder of how much his mind already thinks in the most current technological way.
In this near-future world, kids who are so entrenched in online relationships and technology are prescribed companions. These companions are basically droids or robots that help them develop a healthy human to "human" relationship. The book tells two stories and how the interact and mesh together. I would recommend this to high school students and especially in a class that looks closely at relationships or technology. I can only imagine the discussions that would ensue!
Read Together: Grades 8 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 8 - 12
Read With: So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Snatch of Text:
"Even before Nora and the power died, Charlie's and David's lives were mixed up together like pigments on a palette." p. 1
"Charlie Nuvola was weird. He looked weird; he acted weird; he was interested in weird things. Worst of all, he didn't seem to know or care that everyone else thought he was weird." p. 3
"'My name is Dr. Roger. some of you have met with me already, and I hope to meet with each of you in time. For now, though, one question: how are you today?'
'No, I mean it: how are you today?'
The students looked left and right uncertainly.
'Tell me. How are you?'
Twelve hundred voices said, 'Fine.'
'That's the easy answer,' said Dr. Roger. 'But I want you to reach for the hard answer, which is how you really feel, down inside.'" p. 52
Mentor Text For: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Personal Narrative, Expository, Persuasive
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you felt you were misunderstood. Research and write about how technology is a part of our lives now. How does technology change how we interact with each other? Write about why you think technology is useful/important.
Topics Covered: Relationships, Friendship, Love, Family, Self-Esteem, Technology, Robots/Droids