LJ Ritchie is a graduate of the Whitireia Polytechnic Creative Writing Course and this is his first novel, about surveillance and how easy it is, even when seeking to do good, to become seduced by the power that comes from access to unauthorised information.
The novel is set in a not-so- thinly-disguised Wellington secondary school and revolves around a group of good friends who find that there is a great deal of bullying going on which is caught on camera. However, it seems also that no-one is bothering to check the camera footage regularly, so some fairly unpleasant acts do not get their come-uppance.(Side note – having worked in a school with surveillance cameras, I know just how time-consuming it is to check footage, so its unsurprising to me that bad behaviour goes unnoticed…).
But back to the novel. Of the group, naturally one is an expert hacker and is able to get into the school system undetected by using the password of a former teacher. (Next side note – many teachers have typed their password into a screen visible by students at one time or another. Mostly they report that and change the password. Not in this case, which helps the story!)
The plan is to let the bullies know that they are observed, and thereby potentially end the bullying behaviours , but eventually – and inevitably – the plan goes wrong the roles are reversed.
The story is quite well put together, although I must say I don’t particularly enjoy the present-tense writing style. However it does give a sense of urgency and drives the book along. The characters are pretty well-drawn, if a little stereotypical (geek, with a conscience; pretty and talented girl who turns out to be not as pretty in her behaviour; one of the group with an unspoken crush on the geek…) but there is enough variety to keep you interested.
Overall, I think it’s an okay, if undemanding, first novel and should appeal to younger teenaged readers.
Reviewed by Sue Esterman
Like Nobody’s Watching
by L J Ritchie
by L J Ritchie