A young man named Alex came out to my Decatur, GA Homeland tour-stop and we had a charming (if brief) conversation, and subsequently snapped this quite wonderful photo. One of Alex’s teachers subsequently wrote to me to say that Alex had taken high academic honors in a Letters About Literature contest about Little Brother, and he was kind enough to allow me to reproduce both the photo and the letter here.
Dear Cory Doctorow,
Little Brother is one of those drastically important books that deals with real issues affecting everyone. This book was, in my opinion, more than just a book; it was a persuasive, life-changing book, the kind of gem that comes around too infrequently.
Before I read Little Brother I was scared to try something different. I surrounded myself with the same old young-adult novels (you know- goes on a quest, learns many things, big fight with a troll, the end) and never dared to step out of my little box.
One day during the sixth grade I saw a kid with too many teeth sitting in a dusty corner, reading Little Brother, and asked him what it was about. He shrugged and muttered something incoherent about Harajuku Fun Madness. When I arrived at home I looked up the book on the internet. Before long I discovered your website, and became intrigued by the fact that you were just giving away your e-books.
The book shipped in two days.
I am always thinking. Constantly tossing up an idea, usually shooting it down, tossing up another one, sometimes it flies, I wait for it to crash, then I walk over to it and shoot it another three or four times for good measure. The few months before I read Little Brother this had dumbed down a bit. I could feel it, like I was wearing earplugs, and only low, muffled, blurry ideas wandered through occasionally to stop and say hi before continuing on their way.
After (and during) the reading of Little Brother the haze had lifted and was replaced by an energetic excitement that jumpstarted my brain to life. My neurons hummed like lawnmowers. A refreshing feeling of urgency and eagerness surged through me– a feeling I’d not experienced since being eight years old on Christmas. And I started thinking again.
I put my flawless (yeah, right) guess-and-test technique to work, meticulously weeding through all the information to make sense of things. I realized just how possible the police-state situation could be- after 9/11 security everywhere was increased and tightened. The scanners updated. The rules stricter. The pat-downs more, ahem, thorough. What if this happened, but on a much larger scale?
Also, I’m a bit more paranoid. I know about those looming possibilities, terrifying ones- that technology could be used against me, that my freedom is more fragile than I thought. Already I’ve begun questioning the things presented to me as fact. I look at something and decide for myself if it’s the opinion I want to have.
My favorite part about Little Brother is how, in some way or another, it opened me up to so many other books and authors- Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, the list could go on and on.
Little Brother was and still remains the most important book I’ve ever read. If I had not read your book I would be awfully different, and probably much more ignorant and stubborn. Because of your book I started writing. I read more. I think more. You have written a book that is not only good, but life-changing as well. Thanks.