Review: Like Nobody’s Watching by LJ Ritchie

A picture of the book Like Nobody’s Watching by LJ Ritchie

What is it?

Like Nobody’s Watching by LJ Ritchie

First published 2016

A New Zealand, young adult contemporary novel.

The Back Cover Blurb

When Oscar and his friends hack into the school’s surveillance system, the plan is simple: find the footage, blackmail the bullies, and leave no fingerprints. But the sense of power it brings them is hard to let go…

How do you go from cyber vigilante to cyber villain, when those around you turn their screens against you?

What I thought

Okay, first, let’s talk about the cover. It’s not great. The picture is clearly meant to resemble the grainy footage from a surveillance camera, but it kinda gives me vertigo. And the three words of the title are so spread out that it’s hard to read.

Second, let’s talk about the length. It’s short. Really short. So short that when it arrived in the mail, I actually did a I-paid-how-much? double-take.

Right, now I’ve got those grumbles out of the way, let’s talk about the good stuff.

Quite often I talk about books that don’t grab me, don’t make me feel, don’t pull me in. I’d say the start of Like Nobody’s Watching is a bit like that. The writing is not bad. Maybe even pretty good. Maybe even close to great. I like the character of Oscar and his voice. The other characters (his friends) are less well fleshed out, and tend to float around filling a role.

After a bullying incident, Oscar and his friends decide to hack into the school’s surveillance system and use the footage to threaten the bullies. But after they’ve done it once, they do it again and again, until they go too far.

This is all fairly rudimentary, we go through the motions to get the characters into position.

Then the book makes a huge change.

Another thing I complain about is too much summary, not enough scenes. The second half of the book almost fell into that trap. We spend a lot of time in Oscar’s head, as he deals with the ramifications of what he did. But in this case, it works. We get caught up in his misery and inability to cope. His depression and withdrawal from life are shown so well, which makes the emphasis on his internal view fit. I really felt for him (yay! feelings!) and I powered through to the end when I should have been sleeping.

Last comment on the subject matter. I think it was a really great topic. Not just the idea of cameras everywhere and someone hacking them, but the way the kids use and abuse social media seemed really relevant.  Although it did make me wonder how oblivious the teachers were, that they didn’t notice anything going on.

I’d give this a solid 4 out of 5 bars, and I think LJ Ritchie is a NZ author I’ll keep an eye on. (LOL!)

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