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The Doubt Factory
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paolo Bacigalupi's The Doubt Factory is a contemporary thriller about teen hackers battling the public relations companies who hide the misdoings of major corporations. Some readers (or their parents) may object to the tactics of the teen activists, including kidnapping, breaking and entering, electronic surveillance, and releasing lab rats. Language is strong throughout, with many instances of "f--k," "s--t," "hell," and "damn." Alix and Moses begin dating and develop a sexual relationship, the details of which are left to the imagination. Alix and a friend arrive at a party drunk and ingest a drug similar to Ecstasy.
What's the story?
Seventeen-year-old Alix Baker is focused on finishing her time at a swanky private high school and then heading off for college. But her life is upended by a gang of teen hackers and pranksters who harbor a grudge against her father, the head of a hugely successful public relations firm. They claim that her dad's firm makes millions of dollars by hampering any inquiry into the safety of their clients' food and drug products. Alix must decide whether to stand up for the conscientious parent who loves and provides for her or to brand her father a criminal, based on evidence gathered by teen activists.
Is it any good?
THE DOUBT FACTORY explores an aspect of corporate America that doesn't receive a lot of attention, especially in fiction aimed at young adults. Author Paolo Bacigalupi uses real-life cases of harmful products as a springboard for an unusual thriller about the distortion of public information for monetary gain. Alix's journey from sheltered private school senior to rebellious activist is believable and nuanced. Some readers (or their parents) may object to some of the methods Moses and his band of teen activists take, but many more are likely to be intrigued by the issues raised in this morally complex work of fiction.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how public perceptions are manipulated by public relations, crisis management, and product-defense firms. Can you think of any examples of a corporation misleading the public about a product?
What makes a good thriller? How does The Doubt Factory compare with others you've read?
What can the average person do to protect him- or herself from electronic surveillance?
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