Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: John Solo
Length: 6 hours, 22 minutes
Sixteen-year-old Theo Reese is your basic, average boy—a winger for his high school hockey team, in love with his science nerd boyfriend, Eddie, and uncannily talented with computers. It’s a talent that at age 11 had Theo hacking into his parents’ phones and uncovering the fact that they are agents for an unofficial, international agency called Tactical Operation Support (TOS). Since then, Theo has worked as a tech agent for TOS, helping agents in the field and securing the network from the safety of his bedroom. After the agents’ locator chips are compromised, the dangers of Theo’s job reach him in the real world, leaving him feeling exposed, vulnerable, unprepared, and questioning if his work with TOS is the right thing for him.
Tracker Hacker is a fun, fast-paced, and well-balanced YA thriller. For me, it reminded me of my favorite cartoon spy, Kim Possible—another gifted teenager whose parents know and fully support their child’s spy activity. Except in Tracker Hacker, the whole family is involved, and I really enjoyed how Jeff Adams handled this parent/co-worker dynamic, particularly when the stakes are raised and Theo is exposed to an unprecedented amount of danger. Additionally, I liked that Theo and Eddie’s relationship is already established and the reader gets to experience how the stress and secrecy of Theo’s job affects them as a couple, but isn’t the main point of the story. I think Adams mostly does a good job balancing Eddie’s frustration with the demands on Theo’s time and, later the feeling Theo isn’t being honest with him, with Eddie’s genuine concern for Theo’s well being. Most importantly to the story, Adams does a great job pulling the reader into Theo’s world; he explains the technical aspect of Theo’s work in an engaging way and manages to convey Theo’s joy for what he does in such a way that I felt being behind a computer screen could be as exciting as the car chase/fist fights typically associated with being a secret agent.
As mentioned before, the tone of the story is reminiscent of a fun, tv show and it feels like John Solo was trying to channel this vibe in his performance. In that regard, I was very impressed by Solo’s ability to convey such a specific, well-matched feeling in his delivery and applaud his artistic choice. Unfortunately, overall I found the narration to be more distracting than enjoyable. While the tone Solo uses works well with the story, that tone is somewhat OTT, which some listeners may not enjoy. Furthermore, many of the character voices just did not work for me. In general, most had an underlying nasal quality that was a bit distracting; this was especially noticeable in a character named Yoshi whose described “light accent” somehow translated into a clogged nose and a hesitant, oddly cadenced delivery. I felt like in order to make the characters sound younger, Solo went with stuffed-up dude-bro. Additionally, the few female voices were basically the same, with varying degrees of quiet, almost monotone voices/nasal quality to differentiate them. As much as I love audiobooks, this is one of those times where I would recommend the book version of Tracker Hacker wholeheartedly for those who enjoy YA, while cautiously recommending the audio.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.