By Michael F. Stewart
Published: Feb. 25 2013
Company: Non Sequitur Press
For this Remembrance Day edition of Canvember, I am going to take a look at the first book in the self-titled young adult detective/mystery series: Assured Destruction.
Normally, detective/mystery series are not high on my list of books to read but this one caught my attention when I found out the main character Janus Rose is a computer genius and a bit of a cyber-hacker as well, and the mystery revolves around some of the consequences of her hacking and online lifestyle. This focusing on crimes/consequences of events that happen in cyberspace are not common or typical in the mystery/detective genre. Even at the conclusion of the first book, Janus is forced to deal with the fallout of those choices. Though what will happen when she does is a matter for the second book, Script Kiddie. Apologies for the vagueness but I am trying not to spoil the story.
The book has a very contemporary setting, bucking the recent explosion of dystopian young adult books, but Janus remains to be a relatable teenager in our modern era of technology and social media. While she is a technology genius, this skill and ability comes a bit at the expense of some social skills and relationships with her schoolmates and those around her. She is far from a perfect character, but her faults and imperfections make her more of a realistic teenager, making the story that more enjoyable to read. None of us were perfect teenagers, and even fewer of us were part of the popular crowd at school. Another layer that makes it easier to sink into the story is the lack of precise names and details about where it takes place. At the most, we know the story takes place somewhere in Ottawa. This allows the reader to fill in these details in whatever manner they choose and makes the setting feel most relatable, even if the details the reader chooses are not accurate. Did I mention that she does not get along with her mother?? Seems like a fairly typical teenager to me.
With the contemporary setting, the risks and stakes are not on a global level or even high risk, so do not go in expecting Janus to save Ottawa, Canada, or even the world from a cyber-based threat. Rather they are personal and at a local level for Janus and those around her, but that is not to say there are not any high risk moments. Just that those moments are on a smaller level, impacting those in Janus and those around her. That makes the events of the story more relatable in my opinion since few of us are likely to experience world altering events or events that impact the world on a global scale.
An interesting part of the narrative is Janus’ mother and her romantic life. We are told that Janus’ father left one day, when Janus was younger, causing her mother to fall into a month-long depression. The reason behind his departure is unknown to both Janus and the reader, though I suspect the reveal will have a serious impact on Janus’ view of her family and how she uses and sees technology.
Recently her mother turns to an online dating site to find someone to fill that gap in her life. Not too surprisingly, Janus is not too thrilled at the idea of her dating, at the possibility of her having cyber-sex, and is not happy to meet her date Peter when he comes over to their home. Janus is protective of her mother with her first encounter of Peter, thinking he could be some sort of a creeper, out to take advantage of her wheelchair-bound MS mother. I do not know how I would feel if my mother was to start dating again when I was a teenager and one day bring her beau home for me to meet. Probably would not like it, would not trust the guy, and be SUPER defensive of my mother.
There are moments of romance in the story involving Janus, but given her social skills, they are not overwhelming events and do not overtake the narrative. Janus is involved in a love triangle, but this is less to deal with her inability to choose the “perfect guy” and loving both character but more to deal with her lack of experience in the area. When she does make a decision at the end, her choice is not “perfect” in her eyes or even her love of the ages. Rather, he is simply someone she likes and would like to date exclusively. It could very well end later in the series and she could find another guy to date, but it feels more real since few of us find our true love with our first boyfriend ever at such a young age.
Another unique piece of this series is that is it not limited to just four books. According to the author’s website, when completed, the series will include four novels, seven Twitter feeds, a Facebook page, two websites, seven graphic novel origin stories and a blog. With all the extra flavour texts, this makes the entire Assured Destruction universe a project of transmedia, to further engage its teenage audience. The Twitter feeds, Facebook page, and websites are used and mentioned frequently in the story so keeps them connected to the reader and feels natural. Too often these types of transmedia projects try to force a growing of a community that is non-existent and has nothing to do with the platforms being used.
Why do you think Janus’ dad left all those years ago? Put your idea in the comments below! I would like to wish all the Canadians out there a peaceful Remembrance Day and would like to thank all of the soldiers (past and present) who have died for the sake of protecting our borders and our peace.