Willful Machines

Floreen, Tim. 2015. Willful Machines. New York: Simon Pulse.

Book cover with raven in flight and title text.

In the near future, robotics is a typical high school class, scientists have created sentient AI, and gay kids still have to worry about conservative politics. Lee Fisher, robotics geek and son of the U.S. President, is deeply closeted and terrified of what his father might think. Because he’s constantly under surveillance by the Secret Service, he has to be careful of any imprudent glance that might out him.

But when a new student comes to his school, it gets more and more difficult to monitor his identity. Nico is goofy, charismatic, smart, and has an obvious crush on Lee. The two start dating discreetly, with Lee coming up with strategies to escape his Secret Service detail to steal a few minutes alone with Nico.

Meanwhile, America is being terrorized by a sentient AI named Charlotte, who is demanding that intelligent robots be given equal rights. Lee’s conservative President father refuses to negotiate with terrorists, and Charlotte begins a series of attacks that narrow in on Lee’s school. Lee has to rush to figure out Charlotte’s plan in order to save himself and his school—and learn challenging truths about Nico and his family history.

This book was an endearing and insightful read. The plot was rich, the characters diverse, and the dialog engaging. I liked Lee and really enjoyed the sweet first love storyline. The science fiction aspect was smart and realistic without being overly technical. I recommend this book for YA collections in public libraries and any young adult readers who enjoy science fiction with a decidedly romantic bent.

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About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, Librarian, Legend Tripper, and Queer Activist
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