In my Homeland review, I mentioned that many of Doctorow’s novels post-Eastern Standard Tribe are depressing reads; especially Little Brother, Homeland, and For the Win. Since he’s trying to spur people to action by making them realize how the world works, they can be pretty dark. Thankfully, while Pirate Cinema did have some moments of depression, there was some hope. While Homeland describes the world as it is – the dirty tactics used to arrest protestors and keep us from expressing ourselves as outlined in our constitution/Bill of Rights – Pirate Cinema describes the world as it could be. So it’s possible that, with some work, we can prevent Trent’s world from coming about.
The novel also modified my view of the homeless once again. Growing up I believed the lie that people were homeless because they were lazy or on drugs. When I got older I realized that the truth was a bit more complex. Sure, there are always some who choose not to work or made poor life choices. However, there are also veterans who can’t readjust to civilian life, people with mental issues, and runaways. The squatters that live with trend at Zeroday are yet another category – intelligent kids and young adults who just don’t fit in to our society. In some cases it is because their families failed them. In others, they simply didn’t have the right mentors to show them what they could do with their life. Mostly, they’re just being young and thinking about today. That doesn’t fit in with my personality, but I do admire the rich and exciting lives some people have by just letting the world take them where it will.
As is the case with lots of fiction, this book is like a roller coaster. It’s a long climb to the top with a few dips and surprises here and there. But once it got going, I couldn’t stop reading. I actually finished at midnight today, but didn’t feel like typing out a review on my cell phone.
The book’s YA and I don’t see any real issues with giving it to kids in middle school and up, but the younger the kids are the more you should take an active role in talking to them about the content of the book. For one thing, there’s weed usage (which may or may not matter to you). But I think it’s important to discuss both what goes right and what goes wrong for Trent. Depending on how impressionable your child is, you might want to talk about the hardships of being homeless just for fun as well as all the things that went right because this is a work of fiction. There are many points in the story where things could have gone very, very wrong for our protagonists.
Overall, I really enjoyed it and, while I added it to my reading queue with trepidation after the emotional drain that Homeland was, I’m glad I got around to it.