In recent years, the government especially has been increasingly scrutinized for its spying on citizens. (NSA, anyone?) However, it’s not just the government that can spy on people; it’s any hacker with enough skills, as 16-year-old Jesse soon finds out. CJ Lyons’ Watched explores the helplessness many feel when they become victims of hackers. It’s a chilling and sobering novel; I definitely increased the security of my accounts, among other things.
Jesse is a victim of King, a ruthless hacker who has been blackmailing Jesse. So far, Jesse has given in to King’s demands. But now King wants something more–something too horrible to even think about. And if King doesn’t get it…he’s going to kill Jesse’s little sister. Terrified and helpless, Jesse is lost until the answer to his prayers comes in a plain manila envelope. Inside is a phone number and a note with the words “I can help” written.
The official synopsis of Watched is somewhat vague. The “horrible” blackmail isn’t described, so it wasn’t until I actually started reading that I realized that Jesse was being sexually abused. Watched is the story of two cyber-victims in particular, Jesse and Ariel. Jesse and Ariel are just normal teenagers aside from the fact they’ve been sexually abused, and it’s such an uncomfortable– but necessary– journey to read about their attempt to reclaim their lives. At times I felt physically ill from some of the author’s descriptions, as the subject matter stirred some extreme emotions from me. (It’s important to note that the author never describes anything in graphic detail.) However, I became so emotionally invested in all of the characters except King that I couldn’t put the book down.
Watched is a short read considering the content. Maybe the brevity of the book contributed to how fast I flew through the book? Though brevity is necessary for a high quality work, the short chapters and even shorter sentences added a distance that lessened my connection to the plot. My connection to the plot was further obscured by Jesse’s infatuation with fire; this aspect of Jesse’s personality only detracted from the overall message.
At times Watched seems like a Shonda Rhimes TV show. In other words, Watched could be way more realistic. When the authorities get involved, the story falls apart. Ariel isn’t taken as seriously as she should be, and as a reader, I couldn’t take Watched as seriously as before.
Seriously though, Watched is worth the read!
Rating: 7 out of 10
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (November 4th, 2014)
Length: 302 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN #: 9781402285486