Hard Wired

Bloomsbury. Jul. 2020. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781681190372.
Gr 7 Up–Quinn, 15, is in most ways a typical geek. He plays video games and Magic the Gathering at a gamer coffee shop with his friends, and crushes on a girl in class. However, he also never dreams and has a condition known as vasovagal syncope, where he passes out in situations of high stress, which began when his father died eight years earlier. It isn’t until Quinn wakes up after an episode to see his late father sitting on his bed that he learns the truth; he is not human, but a “QUantum INtelligence Project” who has been living in a virtual construct. Vlahos deftly balances an initially familiar science fiction plot with a deep dive into relevant issues such as privacy, free will, and the characteristics of being human. Quinn struggles throughout with the very idea of personhood, and whether he qualifies. The conversations among Quinn and those who surround him come across as introspective without being didactic, making this a great choice for a book discussion. There’s just enough depth to entice fans of the genre while remaining accessible to more casual readers.
VERDICT Page-turning yet grounded in humanity, this is a highly recommended purchase for YA collections.

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