I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Social Code by Sadie Hayes
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on 9/3/2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, New Adult, Young Adult
In a world where anyone can rise to the top, the only rule is... watch your back.
\r\nEighteen-year-old twins Adam and Amelia Dory learned the hard way to rely only on each other, growing up in a small town where they understood the meaning of coming from nothing. But everything changes when both are offered scholarships to Stanford University – and catapulted into the dazzling world of Silicon Valley, where anyone with a good enough idea can skyrocket to fame and fortune in the blink of an eye…\r\n\r\nAmelia is almost as pretty as she is smart – almost. A shy girl and genius, she is happiest alone in the computer lab, but her brother has other plans for her talents: A new company that will be the next Silicon Valley hit, and will thrust Amelia into the spotlight whether she likes it or not. Where Amelia’s the brains, Adam’s the ambition – he sees the privileged lifestyle of the Silicon Valley kids and wants a piece of what they have. He especially wants a piece of Lisa Bristol, the stunning daughter of one of the Valley’s biggest tycoons.\r\n\r\nAs Adam and Amelia begin to hatch their new company, they find themselves going from nothing to the verge of everything seemingly overnight. But no amount of prestige can prepare them for the envy, backstabbing and cool calculation of their new powerful peers.\r\n\r\nWelcome to Silicon Valley, where fortune, success – and betrayal – are only a breath away...
[rating-report] The synopsis is what caught my eye about The Social Code by Sadie Hayes. It sounded promising and very much like a book version of The Social Network. I’m a bit of a tech geek, so combine that with a YA novel and you’ve pretty much hooked me (plus, look at that cover!).
But this book pretty much sucked ass. Let me tell you why.
In the beginning, the twins are going to college, she’s a genius, he’s a wannabe social climber. She hacks a system called Gibly (a smartphone app), and finds some…really questionable things about the app and the companies that back it and are buying it. All hell breaks loose, threats are thrown about, and she gets offered a prestigious spot in a Silicon Valley incubator, plus all the dramaz.
Unnecessary Characters and Plotlines.
The primary plot of this book is Amelia and Adam’s start up company, but there is a second plot, and I totally do not understand why it’s in the novel: Patty’s affair with her future brother-in-law. Patty had a hand in the beginning of the story, with the Gibly hacking scandal, but it was minor, and frankly, I wouldn’t have missed her if she never appeared in the rest of the novel. But yet, she did, over and over, and her family life, with her sister and her sister’s fiance, really confused me, because it seemed to have absolutely no bearing on what really mattered in The Social Code, which is the say, the story that centralizes around Amelia and Adam Dory. Patty’s story felt like it was put there to create conflict and reader interest and frankly, it was not done well. It was a distraction.
This Book Tells, Not Shows
She was wearing a simple purple silk slip dress and gold sandals with turquoise stones at the toe strap; her long brown hair fell in gentle curls down the front of her shoulders and her three-and-a-half carat princess-cut engagement ring sparkled obnoxiously atop the thin finger that could barely support its weight.
Do we need that level of detail? Part of the greatness in books is the idea that readers get to fill in some of the details themselves. I certainly didn’t care that her gold sandals had turquoise stones at the toe strap. Or that her purple silk dress was a slip dress. Or that her diamond ring was princess-cut!
The large room had tiled floors and seven pieces of gym equipment, plus a stretching area with a mirror and the Pilates junk his wife was obsessed with.
Look, all that needs to be said is, “he went down to his own, state-of-the-art, private gym in his home.” I can fill in the details myself. I’ve seen Cribs.
Her Characters Are Stupid
There is a certain point in the novel (33%) where Amelia, coder-extraordinaire, is discovered as the Gibly Hacker. She tells one of Gibly’s venture capitalists exactly what she did (which was to hack in to Gibly, discover the bad things they were doing to end-users), AND THEN OFFERS EVEN MORE DETAILS:
“Well, then I started thinking that maybe that was why the company had sold for so much. I mean, it’s illegal, but that kind of information would also be insanely valuable to everyone from advertisers to terrorists. So, I tracked Aleister’s accounts.”
Are you fawking stupid, Amelia? You don’t tell people your hacker secrets, you twat! No, seriously, who does that?!
Patty was blushing horribly at what was happening onscreen – two naked women were kissing in front of a casually smoking Henry Miller – when she felt Chad’s knee press against hers. He just moved in his chair, she thought. It’s not intentional. It doesn’t mean anything.
Patty, you are a dolt. You already made out with the guy. *facepalm*
Later on, Amelia is wondering if Roger Fenway, her mentor and start-up backer, knows about her “criminal” past:
She actually hadn’t thought about whether or not Roger knew.
No lie, folks, these are my actual notes from my iPad: “Fucking really? Silicon Valley giant and you don’t even wonder if he knew???”
The Plot Is Implausible. All the Things Are Not Right.
It is totally 100% possible for a university student to come up with a genius idea and run with it, turning it into a billions-of-dollars cash cow. After all, Mark Zuckerberg did it. And that’s why I was interested in this book, because stories like that fascinate me. But it’s like Sadie Hayes did absolutely little-to-no research for this storyline, because most of it is impossible, or highly, highly improbable.
Amelia and Dory have a past that included Amelia hacking into the SAT website (LOLOLOLOLOL) and changing the SAT score of her older foster brother. And then hacked into her foster father’s company’s system to increase his sales figures. And then hacked into the company’s bank account to move money from one account to another. Including the State Insurance Bureau. And now that the twins are back in the public eye with their invention and company, their old foster family wants them to start hacking again.
I laughed. Uproariously. Because this kind of thing doesn’t happen. Look, I know it’s fiction, but I’m reading realistic fiction here, so it needs to be, OH I DON’T KNOW, REALISTIC.
(And ALSO LOOK. I know all these things are possible, but a naive teenager is not going to do them.)
Sadie Hayes also clearly didn’t do any research into what coding or being a programmer means (which, you know, surprises me, because supposedly she works in Silicon Valley as an executive and this is actually her pen name…).
The sound of tapping computer keys and the sight of line after line of zeroes and ones and Courier typeface up and down the screen […]”
No. Just, no. Being a programmer doesn’t mean you look at ones and zeroes. Ones and zeroes is computer and internet language. It’s the language computers use to talk to one another. Programmers do not stare at ones and zeroes all day, they stare at characters and symbols, like < and ” and %. LOL, “zeroes and ones.” WTF is this, The Matrix?
Amelia meets a gay person for the first time in her life. Ever. Because he might be the first gay person in the history of mankind.
“Wait,” she said. “You’re gay?” “Flaming.” He grinned. She grinned back. She’d never met gay person, but she liked him.
Amelia then goes to Hawaii.
Amelia wondered what it was like to sing holiday carols when it was ninety degrees outside.
Hawaii doesn’t get into the 90s in the winter (or, really, hardly ever). I would know, because I used to live there. Was this book researched…at all?
The Book Is Horribly Written.
A ten-year-old could have written The Social Code. The writing style is simple at best, but there are a lot of syntax errors, and it is not fluid at all. It’s choppy, and inelegant.
By the following week, Lisa had emailed Amelia a thorough outline of her proposed thesis. Amelia read it on her laptop during class. It actually made the book sound kind of interesting, which led her to read the play. Well, most of it.
They drove without speaking. It was the middle of the day and traffic moved quickly. Patty stared out at the trees lining the side of the road. Sunlight moved through the branches and glanced out at her from among the leafy shadows.
No one was smiling anymore. The woman tilted her pretty head and swept her red hair over her shoulder. She glared at Amelia. She was gorgeous and terrifying.
All of these, plus many more, could have been rewritten to be fluid and easier to read, not the choppy bits they currently are. Not to mention, there is no actual timeline through the story, like, “the following week” or “on Monday afternoon.” It just goes from one scene to the next. My god, was there even an editor involved in this book?!
Abort. Abort. Abort. Do not read. Abort. Abort. Abort.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.