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Pirate Cinema



Rousing near-future adventure tackles privacy issues.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Although set in the near future, Pirate Cinema addresses issues of privacy and copyright that are entirely relevant today. It raises questions about who owns art, whether giant corporations have our best interests at heart, and how to lobby most effectively for political change.

Positive messages

Pirate Cinema presents a message that not all readers and their families will be comfortable with: that it's sometimes necessary to work outside the law to survive, thrive, and achieve positive change for the good of the citizenry. Trent and his friends squat in abandoned buildings, make illegal videos, and engage in protests for which they could be arrested. But their tactics do little harm to anyone and in many cases result in inarguably positive change for everyday people.

Positive role models

Sixteen-year-old main character Trent McCauley engages in illegal behavior, ranging from smoking marijuana to making copyright-infringing videos to staging huge public protests. But he never intentionally harms anyone, and some of his activities lead to undeniably good results for people with little political power.


A character is badly beaten while in jail, but the scene is presented indirectly, and the character isn't permanently injured.


Although the characters' sex lives aren't described in detail, it's made clear that they have them, even those who are 16 and 17. Trent and his girlfriend sleep together after a handful of dates and a great deal of "snogging" (the British term for making out). A male character is interrupted while "wanking" (masturbating). Sex is presented positively, and the characters suffer little trauma from their intimate encounters.


Frequently rough, with liberal use of all but the most objectionable profanities. Many are peculiarly British -- "bloody," "shite" "arse," "piss," "bastard" -- and they're used both to describe body parts and functions and as more abstract curse words.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Trent and his squatter friends smoke marijuana often and sometimes drink to the point of inebriation. Mostly this behavior passes without serious consequences, but Trent infuriates his girlfriend when he inhales sugar at a dance party.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Pirate Cinema, by Cory Doctorow, paints a vivid picture of life on the streets in near-future London and features a cast of characters who operate outside the law. Marijuana use is regarded as unremarkable, teens engage in sexual relationships, one major supporting character is gay and another bisexual (they share a physical relationship), and a male character is interrupted while "wanking" (masturbating). The characters and narrator use a great deal of profanity (e.g. "bloody," "shite" "arse," "piss," "bastard"), but there's very little violence. The novel presents the message that not all readers and their families will be comfortable with: that it's sometimes necessary to work outside the law to survive, thrive, and achieve positive change for the good of the citizenry. But many readers will be exhilarated and moved by the amount of passion and intelligence the characters bring to their quest for justice.

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What's the story?

Obsessed with creating illegal remixes of his favorite movies, 16-year-old Trent McCauley finds himself on the wrong side of the law. When his family's Internet is cut off for a year due to his transgressions, Trent runs away to London rather than face his father's unemployment, his mother's failing health, and his younger sister's plunging school grades. He falls in with a group of squatters refurbishing an abandoned pub, as well as activists and artists working to overturn a copyright law that would turn millions of young people into felons overnight. Rechristened as Cecil B. DeVil, Trent learns how to use technology and art to effect political change.

Is it any good?


PIRATE CINEMA is another volume in Cory Doctorow's series of novels about teenagers taking on the system, and it mostly maintains his high standards. The novel addresses issues that directly affect today's young readers, and it doesn't promote simplistic answers to most of the questions it raises. Trent's acclimation to life on the streets of London seems a little too easy, but the book in general stays within the realm of plausibility. Many readers will be exhilarated and moved by the amount of passion and intelligence that the highly diverse characters bring to their quest for justice.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the book's messages regarding piracy and rights ownership. Do you think the motion picture and entertainment industries overstate the problem of piracy?

  • How do you feel about online piracy? What does "fair use" mean? Should artists be allowed to take parts of older works and use them in new ways? 


  • What might it be like to be 16 and have to live on the streets of London? Can you imagine living on your own in a big city?

Book details

Author:Cory Doctorow
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Tor Books
Publication date:October 2, 2012
Number of pages:384
Publisher's recommended age(s):13 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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