Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hacking Harvard- Robin Wasserman

Eric Roth, Max Kim, and Isaac Schwarzbaum have been hacking for, more or less, their entire lives. Always fairly little things- taking down teachers, bullies, people who deserve it. The trio fervently insists that their misdeeds are not 'pranks', but it's hard to find another word for the things that Max, Eric, and Schwarz do. Jokes, involving break-ins and a lot of computers. Small things.

Until Max is offered a position at a hacking company that pays in stocks. Until his father threatens to cut him off and leave him penniless if he doesn't follow the path that's been laid out for him since his father's college days. Until Max makes a bet. Until the trio embarks on a mission to take down America's most acclaimed, competitive university.

Eric, Max, and Schwarz are hacking into Harvard. They'll play the system, step by step, until the biggest slacker in their school is holding a thick envelope edged in crimson.

Only, Lex, our narrarator, is kind of in the way.

Hacking Harvard is a very good book.

The writing is exceptional. Lex's voice is a very strong one, even in those scenes in which she seems to be nothing more than an omniscient narrarator. That's actually one of the many interesting facets of this novel- it's told in first person, but Lex is absent for the vast majority of the story. The prose is also very elegantly spun, while still managing to be humorous. The writing definitely made me want to read more- all!- of Robin Wasserman's other books.

The concept was so original, too. It was actually the first thing that sold me on this book, the writing being the second.

And third?

The characters.

As a major and long time nerd-lover, a book about three guys who HACK into an Ivy League school is, no lie, seriously appealing to me.
And the three of them were excellent.

Schwarz, the prodigy who is adorable. Not my crush of the novel by a long-shot (he has a Playboy fixtation but is scared of normal girls), but very lovable. He lets Max and Eric and the girl he's crushing on boss him around to no end, and he's a sixteen-year-old Harvard freshman. He promotes many feelings of 'aww'.

Max, the relatively reckless ringleader (Wow, that alliteration was completely unintentional. That is scary), with the out-there schemes and great sense of humor. He's the least nerdy-acting of them all, which proudly defies the whole smart-asian-guy stereotype. (Eric and Schwarz are Jewish).

Finally, there's Eric. Oh, Eric. Eric, the righteous moral compass who wears tee-shirts to advertise his causes and sticks to the Hacker's Code at all costs. He takes Lex to a planetarium on a non-date. He's wonderful.

Lex is cool, too, at least towards the end of the novel.

The only problem with this novel is a bit of under-developement. In the beginning chapters, Max and Eric are both given colorful family situations, but, save for the looming threat of Max's father's financial cut-off and a few appearences by Eric's younger sister, they fade away completely as the novel progresses. There is also the fascinating Alice Morgenthal, who went insane after receiving rejection letters from every college she applied to and had some sort of thing with Eric. Her story is so poignant and interesting, and yet it's totally neglected. I would have loved to see more of her in the novel.

Regardless, this is an awesome book. The ending, in particular, is satisfying without tying everything up in a big red bow. Depsite Lex's early allusions to several children's stories, it's no fairy tale. (thank the lord).

Also, an awesome fact that was, strangely enough, absent in the 'About the Author'? Robin Wasserman WENT TO HARVARD.

Can we say amazing?
We can indeed.

4.5 stars for Hacking Harvard!



Helsinki + Jinx said...

wow this sounds like an awesome book i am so ordering it from work on sunday!

and also my url for myspace is

thanks heather

and good review caroline, quite a good read i shall look forward to reading it!

catch you guys

jinx xx

Helsinki + Jinx said...

Hey guys check out the new post thats up. its tres exciting. Hope all is well!

jinx xx

The Blind Sisters

The Book Muncher said...

omg, i totally want to read this book. it's been on my wishlist for like forever, or almost. MUST READ IT.

Angie said...

thanks for the review
do you know where I can download the novel?
cuz I live outside america and it's hard to find that book