Gr 9 Up—Alix Banks lives a cushy life in a rich, mostly white, Connecticut suburb. She attends a prestigious private high school, is loved by her parents, and gets along with her ADHD younger brother. Her privileged world is shattered when her school is attacked by the enigmatic renegade 2.0, who appears to be stalking her. Alix's father is well connected, and soon the house is swarming with security professionals, including Alix's own personal bodyguard. But that doesn't protect her from a terrifying encounter with 2.0, whose real name is Moses Cruz, and the other members of his multicultural band of teen rebels. Moses tells Alix that her father's company, Banks Strategy Partners—otherwise known as the Doubt Factory—was the lead defense consultant for several major corporations that produced faulty drugs and other products that caused countless people to die. Alix's love for her father conflicts with her growing anxiety that Moses may be telling the truth. Is her devoted dad really a killer? Uncertainty causes Alix to do some investigating on her own and forces her to make a fateful decision. Bacigalupi's characters are clearly drawn and believable. This gripping, outstanding contemporary story cites actual cases of corporate greed, which adds realism to the plot. Suspense builds at a steady pace, leading to increasingly dramatic plot twists and a climax that will leave readers' hearts pounding. Some swearing and mention of drugs and sex make this suitable for older readers.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT
Alix's reluctant investigation draws her down a rabbit hole of corporate conspiracy and pits principle against family, while offering everything you could ask from an airport thriller: death-defying chases, gun-toting mercenaries, idealistic techno-hackers…In our proudly post-postmodern world of antiheroes and shades of gray, the value of nuance, in fiction and beyond, is almost axiomatic. To see the world in black and white is to see it through a child's eyes. Bacigalupi is challenging this conflation of simplicity with naïveté, which makes for a…stirring cri de coeur. Compromise, complication, doubt: These are his enemies. Maybe there's nothing childish about moral clarity; maybe to understand that some stories have only one defensible side is what it means to grow up.
The New York Times Book Review - Robin Wasserman
In this provocative thriller, Bacigalupi (The Drowned Cities) traces the awakening of a smart, compassionate, and privileged girl named Alix Banks to ugly realities of contemporary life, while seeking to open readers’ eyes, as well. Alix’s life is thrown into disarray when an activist group targets her family, its eyes on her father’s powerful public relations business. Moses is a charismatic black teen living off the money from a settlement with a pharmaceutical company after one of its medications killed his parents. Along with four other brilliant teens who have lost family to this sort of legal/medical maleficence, Moses hopes to enlist Alix’s help to release incriminating data from her father’s files, à la Edward Snowden. This openly didactic novel asks challenging questions about the immorality of the profit motive and capitalism, but does so within the context of a highly believable plot (backed up with references to actual front groups, lawsuits, warning labels, and literature on the subject, which will send readers to their search engines) and well-developed, multifaceted characters. Fans of Cory Doctorow’s work should love this book. Ages 15–up. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Praise for The Doubt Factory: A 2015 Edgar Award Nominee A 2015 Locus Award Nominee A Winter 2014-2015 Kids' Indie Next List Book * "[A] provocative thriller.... Fans of Cory Doctorow's work should love this book."— Publishers Weekly, starred review *"From the opening pages, this is an action-packed thriller with the FBI, secret service, thousands of rats, a kidnapping, and a little romance.... Bacigalupi scores again."— Library Media Connection, starred review "A suspenseful, page-turning yarn.... Bound to provoke thought."— Kirkus Reviews "This gripping, outstanding contemporary story... builds at a steady pace, leading to increasingly dramatic plot twists and a climax that will leave readers' hearts pounding."— School Library Journal "A searing indictment... Bacigalupi, unafraid to name names, makes readers question the morality of everyday decisions... and recommends that all of us be cynics when it comes to megaconglomerates....Multi-award-winning Bacigalupi is becoming an indispensable voice in YA."— Booklist "This is a gripping, unsettling read that will no doubt prompt further discussion long after the climactic, cinematic finale."— The Horn Book "An exciting read... Bacigalupi has done an impressive job of placing the reader in the front seat."— VOYA "The book's snappy pace, caper set-up, and sharp political perspective easily save the (novel's) day and will bring in readers of thoughtful high action."— The Bulletin
* "Bacigalupi writes with a furious energy that makes this brilliant depiction of an all-too-believable future impossible to forget."
* "Bacigalupi's intense, action-filled novel is a heartbreaking and powerfully moving portrait of individual resiliency amidst extreme circumstances that rivals, if not surpasses, the excellent of its predecessor."
Praise for The Drowned Cities: "Suzanne Collins may have put dystopian literature on the YA map with 'The Hunger Games'...but Bacigalupi is one of the genre's masters, employing inventively terrifying details in equally imaginative story lines."
The public relations business becomes an unlikely but effective villain in this techno-thriller. High school senior Alix lives in privilege: designer labels, Caribbean vacations, elite private education. But when the mysterious activist group 2.0 targets her school, Alix learns that her father is their real objective, and soon Moses, 2.0's seductive leader, makes her doubt everything she once believed. Despite choppy, repetitive and unabashedly didactic prose, clogged with infodumps detailing the history of corporate spin, multiaward-winning Bacigalupi cranks out a suspenseful, page-turning yarn. While any caper involving such a perfectly ethnically and sexually diverse team of teenagers, all blessed with genius-level skills, is scarcely plausible, it is nevertheless praiseworthy. Alix keeps the story grounded with her thoughtfulness and integrity. Her insta-romance with Moses—creepy origins notwithstanding—feels both authentic and intense, with a sensual physicality that pushes the book firmly into the crossover category. Even though some chapters are in his viewpoint, Moses remains a chameleon, elusive and opaque; although his philosophy of "trust no one" and "test everything" is hammered home repeatedly, readers devoid of their own superteams aren't given many tools to follow through in real life.Whether readers ultimately find it passionate, preachy, inspiring or quixotic depends upon their own levels of cynicism; nonetheless, it's a book bound to provoke thought—and arguments. (Thriller. 15 & up)