Evan Angler’s middle-grade novel Swipe takes place at a future time when society has been through ecological upheaval, shortages, plague, and war. But leaders General Lamson and Chancellor Cylis have remedied all that with many innovations including the mark, a nano-dust arm tattoo every 13-year-old gets on his or her birthday. This makes each a full member of society, able to get a job, earn money, bank, and vote.
For Logan Langly and his family, life goes along smoothly in the small town of Spokie until the day Logan’s older sister Lily goes to get her mark and never returns. Now Logan’s 13th is just around the corner and he’s jumpy. What if the same thing happens to him? Add to that the fact that he feels like he’s being watched and things in his room get moved while he’s out. Despite his obsessive checking of the whole house morning and night, he never catches the culprit.
Enter Erin, the new girl from Beacon City. Her dad works for Dome, the futuristic equivalent of the CIA. She hates it that she had to leave her mom and home because of Dad’s job. She snoops through his stuff with a view to helping him solve his case in Spokie speedily so her family can be together again. With her code-cracking, internet savvy smarts, she’s soon up to her neck in mystery as she joins Logan in his quest to find out if there truly is someone following him, why, and whether Lily’s disappearance was sinister or just an explainable mark intolerance.
I loved the book’s setting which gives us Angler’s answers to questions like, What if fuel runs out? What if land is at a premium? What if all the trees are dead? What if paper is rare to non-existent? What if people are discouraged from thinking for themselves?
Main character Logan is sympathetic and likeable, though a little wimpy. Strong girl Erin makes this a PC book that will help it pass muster with the feminists (and their mothers) in the crowd. The book’s intended middle-grade audience will relate well, I think, to the dynamics between characters at school and in social settings, like a futuristic rock concert complete with wailing mitts.
The boyfriend-girlfriend angle is played up too. The book probably portrays that aspect of tween to early teen relationships realistically, though given the fact that kids as young as Grade 3 (“ages 8 and up”) will probably read this book, some of the scenes made me uncomfortable (kids fantasizing about relationships with the opposite sex, hugging and kissing with attendant thrills described, time spent alone in bedrooms with someone they ‘like,’ though nothing happens and the “dates” are not much more than long walks).
The mark is an obvious reference to the Mark of the Beast from the Bible (Revelation 13:16-18), but other references to faith or a specific religion are pretty much absent. The book does explore themes of conformity, family, secrets, courage, loyalty, truth, and what the future could be like.
There’s lots to like in Angler’s lively and quirky writing style. For example:
“But Erin was worked up. And for no good reason she thought of bedtime reading and Shakespeare in pajamas, and then her heart broke in two and it sank and burned in little pieces in the acid of her stomach and suddenly she was very worked up and she said, ‘Are either of you even trying anymore?” (Kindle Location 998).
and: “Peck assumed the look of a man choosing his words so carefully that none came out” (KL 4298).
“He’d never walked so deep into a building so big and so swallowing” (KL 4637).
For a surprise-filled adventure set in a futuristic world with realistic, likeable characters, Swipe is a good choice. The ending sets readers firmly on the path to Sneak, Book 2 in the Swipe series, due out in the fall of 2012.