Hacking Harvard, critiqued by Matthew M.
The title says it all…sort of. The title Hacking Harvard is kind of hard to get confused with anything else, anyway. I happened to come across this book while over at my cousin’s house mid-to-late August when he recommended I read it, saying it was a really good book. Being that him and I have very close opinions on what a “good” book is (and once I saw the very intriguing title), I took it without question. Reading it over the first time, I was happy to find that I hadn’t been wasting two days of my life hardly doing anything else besides reading it! The whole plot really kept you “on the edge of your seat” all the way through to the last chapter. I tried speeding through it at first, but I soon realized that not only was the writing exceptional (and should be cherished), the book had a lot of minor details to watch out for. I had to read it twice to truly appreciate everything it had to offer.
There was one small problem (which also helped in my decision to re-read the book): the Prologue left me completely lost. And I was left that way until around Chapter Three, where the setting was finally established! A lot of the beginning of the book is dedicated to introducing you to the characters—Max, Eric, and Schwarz—which is still left a little foggy in my opinion. Read and re-read the beginning carefully. Not to say, in any way, that the introduction was poorly written. The dialogue between the three main characters on top of the transition between them and the narrator was outstanding (I’m sorry, there’s no way to shorten this any further):
“ ‘Schwarz is losing it,’ Eric whispered…‘Let’s speed this up.’
‘Code names only,’ Max reminded him. ‘We don’t who might be monitoring this frequency. And whose idea was it to stick Grunt on the roof?’
‘Mine. And it was a good one.’ Eric flipped channels back to Schwarz, hoping he was right. ‘You still with us up there?’…
‘Ready for Phase Three.’ The voice was pitched and nasal, with a hit of a whine. As usual. ‘Can you, um, please go faster?’
‘We’re working on it.’
And back to Max.
‘Last load,’ Max confirmed. ‘Hoist it up, Chuckles, and I’ll meet you and Grunt on the roof in five.’…
‘Explain to me again why I have to be Chuckles and you get to be Cobra Commander?’ Eric asked Max, hooking the line to his belt and giving it two quick tugs. There was a grinding sound, and then the ground fell away beneath him as the mechanism hoisted him up…It was nothing like flying.
‘Because you make me laugh,’ Max replied in a syrupy sweet voice. ‘At least your face does.’
‘Chuckles is a noble leader of covert operations for the G.I. Joe team,’ Max said. ‘You should be proud.’
Eric snickered. ‘And you should stop playing with dolls.’
It was their final run, their final game in the minor leagues. Max was the only one who knew it, because Max already had the plan crawling through his mind, the idea he couldn’t let go. He hadn’t said anything yet, but he would, soon—because up on that roof, he decided it was time. The hack on [Dr. Ambruster] had gone so effortlessly, almost with a hint of boredom. It was child’s play, and Max was getting tired of playing with toys.
He knew the idea was worthy.
He knew the plan was ready—and so were they.
I wasn’t there, of course. But I’ve pieced it together, tried to sift the truth from the lies, eliminate the contradictions. And I’ve tried to be a faithful reporter of the facts, even the ones that don’t make me look very good.
Maybe even especially those…
So like I say, this isn’t my story to tell, but it’s the one I’ve got. And all it’s got is me.” (Prologue, pages included: 9-11, 19-20) As you can tell, a lot is left in the dark in this chosen example, and most of the opening chapters follow the same idea.
Now, besides the beginning, the entirety of it all had some major flaws. While Max and Eric had excellent background information for the reader’s enjoyment, Schwarz, one of the three main characters, had just about nothing told about him whatsoever. Another thing was the epilogue. There wasn’t even one! You read to the last few chapters and then the story comes to a close in a couple sloppy paragraphs Wasserman likes to call “Chapter 24.” That got me a bit fumed. However, I appreciated Wasserman’s time-consuming job to make each character involved in the story have human flaws, which brings the reader back down to earth (from a story that has most likely has been thought of before) to allow him/her to really feel what the characters are feeling.
The beginning and end were a little iffy, but the middle was great! Loads of detail hand-in-hand with the mystery behind what’s really at stake, keeps the reader going straight through to the very end. Out of 10, I’d give Hacking Harvard a 7. It may be excellent writing that teens can really compute with, but how can you truly keep the reader involved if the book is hard to follow? I knew the plot and language deserved more credit than what other reviewers have given it, so re-reading was a must if I wanted an accurate review. Just read the beginning carefully, try your best to enjoy the end, and you’ll be ready to take on a book that easily could’ve—and should’ve—been a 9.