by Katie Kacvinsky

In the year 2060, everything is done online—including school—and Maddie's father is the orchestrator. When Maddie meets Justin, he shows her there's a better way to live—but is he just using her in order to destroy her father's creation?

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547721989
  • ISBN-10: 0547721986
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication Date: 04/17/2012
  • Carton Quantity: 24

About the book

Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

About the author
Katie Kacvinsky

Katie Kacvinsky worked in the entertainment industry and as a high school English teacher before deciding to write full time.


May 7, 2060

My mom gave me an old leather-bound journal for my seventeenth

birthday. At first the blank pages surprised me, as if the story inside

was lost or had slipped out. She explained sometimes the story is

supposed to be missing because it’s still waiting to be written. Leave

it to my mom to give me something from the past to use in the


 They don’t make paper books anymore—it’s illegal to chop down

real trees. They still grow in some parts of the world, but I’ve never

seen one. Most cities have switched to synthetic trees, and people

prefer them to the living ones. Synthetic trees come shipped to your

house in any size you want, so you don’t have to wait fifteen years for

them to grow. Now you shop online and choose your desired size and

height, and in days you have a full-grown tree in your yard, cemented

into the ground and supported with steel beams anchored

into the base. Instant. Simple. No fuss.

 Synthetic trees never die. They don’t wither in the fall. You don’t

have a mess of leaves and needles to sweep up. They’re fireproof. They

don’t cause allergies. And they’re always perfectly green (constantlygreen

.com has the best synthetic tree selection, according to my mom). The

leaves can fade a little from the sun, but you just spray-paint them

green again. During Halloween, people spray-paint the leaves on

their trees yellow, orange, and red. It’s the colors leaves used to turn

before they fell to the ground. My mom said she can remember seeing

the fall colors when she was young. She said it was the most beautiful

time of the year. It’s hard to imagine anything becoming beautiful

as it dies. Then again, it’s hard to imagine much that Mom 

insists used to “be.”

 When trees were dying offin fires and overharvested, books were

the first to go. These days books are downloaded digitally and you

can order any book you want to be uploaded into your Bookbag in

seconds, which I convert onto my Zipfeed. It reads the words out

loud to me on my computer. Simple. Convenient. I know how to

read, of course. We learn it in Digital School 2. I still read my chat

messages on my phone. But it was proven that audio learning is a

faster way to retain information, according to some Ph.D. researchers

who studied rats in a cage. By observing rats they figured out the

best way for humans to learn. Some politician thought this theory

sounded glamorous, so they changed a law that changed the world.

That’s why I listen to almost all of my books.

 I didn’t escape the chore of using my eyes to read. Mom still

enforces it. She saved all her old novels and stores them in these

wooden cabinets with glass doors called bookshelves. Every year she

hands down a few of her favorites to me. I have a collection slowly

building in my bedroom. I have to admit, I like the look of them. I

also like to escape inside their world, tucked behind their colorful

spines. It forces me to fully invest my mind into what I’m doing, not

just my ears or my eyes. I think barricading them behind glass is a

little obsessive, but Mom says the paper in books will yellow if they’re

exposed to air. Just like the leaves on the trees that couldn’t survive in

this world. Hey, if you can’t acclimate, you disintegrate. I learned

that in Digital School 3.

 So, you can imagine my surprise when my mom gave me a blank

book. I rarely see a book with print in it, and now a blank one—what

a waste. No wonder we killed all the trees. And I’m supposed to

write in this thing. Longhand. It’s this form of writing using ink on

paper. It’s so slow! It makes me laugh watching people do it in old

movies. It hasn’t been used in twenty years. We learn it in school, but

it’s simulated on our flipscreens. Only specialty online stores sell ink

pens, but leave it to my mom to invest in this historic item. “Madeline,”

she told me, “it’s good for you to write down your thoughts.

It’s therapeutic because it forces you to slow down and think about


 I feel guilty writing on this paper, staining something with words

when maybe it’s their emptiness, the fact that they’re unscathed, that’s

more interesting than anything I have to say. My life is far from

remarkable. Sadly, it’s the other extreme. It is predictable. Controlled.

Mandated. Paved out for me in a trail I’m forced to follow.

 Why should I take the time to write down my thoughts when no

one else can even read them? I’m used to millions of people having

access to everything about me. I’m used to a fountain of feedback

and comments trailing every entry I type, every thought I expose.

That makes me feel justified. It shows that people genuinely care

about me. It reminds me that I’m real and I exist. Why try to hide it

all in a book? Besides, there are no secrets. Sooner or later, the truth

always leaks out. That’s one thing I’ve learned in this life.


Chapter one

I pulled a sweatshirt over my head, and just as I opened my bedroom

door, I was distracted by a red light flashing on my computer.

I was running late, but the glow of the light caught my

attention and held me in place like a net. I programmed my screen

to flash different colors depending on who was calling. I knew red

could only mean one person. I sat down and tapped the light with

my finger and a single white sentence dissolved on the screen.

 Are you going to be there tonight?

 I read Justin’s question and bit my lips together. My mind told

me to say no. That answer would please my father. He trained me

to squeeze my thoughts through a filter so my decisions came out

acceptable and obedient. But lately it was making me feel weak,

like my mind wasn’t reallymine

anymore, just a program to manipulate.

That’s why this time, I was tempted to say yes.

 I met Justin two months ago on TutorPage—it’s

a live chatroom

for students to get help on homework assignments. We were both

stuck on writing a thesis sentence for our literary analysis paper, a

requirement in Digital School 4. Since the tutor was being swarmed

with questions and Justin and I had the same problem, we figured

it out together. I remember him writing the oddest comment that

day. He wrote, “Two brains are better than one.” It was strange

because you can go through all of DS-4 without even looking at

another person, let alone working with someone. One of the perks

to a digital life is it forces you to be independent.

 Justin and I coordinated to study two days a week together and

then he started sending me invites to face-to-face tutor sessions

held in downtown Corvallis. When he assured me the groups were

small, but could be helpful, I still dreaded the idea of meeting him

in public. I’m used to the security of living behind my online profiles

and the clip art advertisements I create to define me. I can be

whoever I want to be in that world. I can be funny, deep, pensive,

eccentric. I can be the best version of myself. Better yet, an exaggeration

of the best version of myself. I can make all the right decisions.

I can delete my flaws by pressing a button.

 In the real world anything can happen. It’s like stepping onto

an icy surface—you have to adjust your footing or you’ll


"Fans of Oliver’s Delirium will appreciate this story of a girl subverting social strictures through forbidden relationships, but the wild chase scenes and richly developed characters make it a sure sell across the board."--BCCB "This book could not have been more perfect."—Kaci Carpenter, teen YALSA reviewer