Allie Navarro can’t wait to show her best friends the app she built at CodeGirls summer camp. CLICK’D pairs users based on common interests and sends them on a fun (and occasionally rule-breaking) scavenger hunt to find each other. And it’s a hit. By the second day of school, everyone is talking about CLICK’D.
Watching her app go viral is amazing. Leaderboards are filling up! Everyone’s making new friends. And with all the data Allie is collecting, she has an even better shot at beating her archenemy, Nathan, at the upcoming youth coding competition. But when Allie discovers a glitch that threatens to expose everyone’s secrets, she has to figure out how to make things right, even if that means sharing the computer lab with Nathan. Can Allie fix her app, stop it from doing any more damage, and win back the friends it hurt-all before she steps on stage to present CLICK’D to the judges?
New York Times best-selling author Tamara Ireland Stone combines friendship, coding, and lots of popcorn in her fun and empowering middle-grade debut.
Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be published September 5th, 2017, via the publisher in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.
Based off the premise alone, this book was very close to home for me, so from day one, I knew I had to read it and that I would be pretty critical of it, especially in terms of accuracy. Despite that, Click’d ended up both surprising and impressing me. I didn’t know that Stone had it in her, but I respected her other novels and now I respect this one.
Click’d is about a promising young female coder who has to go through the growing pains of the development cycle, from the crushing lows of not knowing where a problem is to the soaring highs of figuring it out. I felt Allie’s enthusiasm for code, and I loved her support network. I empathized with her fears and rooted for her all the way. Really, what this novel is about more than anything else is the magic that is computer science. The portrayal of the struggles and the joys made the book for me, and what sealed the deal was how Stone managed to leave a good taste in my mouth with the ending but still stayed true to her story.
It’s fun, it’s a bit fluffy, and it’d be a fantastic story to get middle school girls into coding. The growing relationship between Allie and Nathan was fun to follow, and it was great to see them work together despite continuing to be rivals. Click’d places a big emphasis on the good that technology can do, and I was inspired thinking about all the good that this generation can and will do for the world.
And while I enjoyed Allie’s character and thought she was a great narrator, it was actually Nathan who turned out to be my favorite. I couldn’t imagine being friends with Allie, but I could imagine Nathan, and he really endeared himself to me with his drive and skills as well as his weaknesses. Every character had just the right amount of depth for this story. On a similar note, I LOVED that Stone focused on strong, intelligent kids (who are still very much kids), the kind of kids who truly do exist, and didn’t downplay their smarts or abilities. The challenges they faced were spot-on, and the plot was woven together excellently.
In terms of the writing, I ended up liking Stone’s middle-grade writing style significantly. The social structure outside the main character relationships was a bit simplistic, too let’s all-eat-cake-and-be-happy-because-the-world-is-full-of-sunshine-and-love, but otherwise, it was perfect. I would definitely be open to seeing more of this style from her.
However, the book wasn’t without its faults. I did like Allie and Nathan’s friendship, but it didn’t start out that way at all. Allie had this passionate dislike of Nathan, and Nathan was just as bad to her. Then a few minor things happened and suddenly they became best buddies. I thought the turnaround was great, but it needed more time and development.
Another segment of the story that could’ve stood up to more editing was the beginning, which started out like a success story for Girls Who Code. Don’t get me wrong–those are fun and inspiring, but they’re irritating in novel form. When I read, I don’t want to feel like the author is selling something. There’s a time and place for that, but that time isn’t now and that place isn’t literature. Fortunately, that faded with time.
On that note, I really hope that the end of the book includes a link other than Code.org. Code.org is brilliant at certain things and not-so-brilliant at others. The fact remains that there will inevitably be high school girls and adult women who read this book, and when they do, they should have a resource a bit more grown-up than painfully slow block coding to get started with code. It’s a solid introduction, but it’s not generally engaging to older audiences, especially those that pick it up quickly. It’s for this very reason that my Computer Science Club is redesigning the way we run the annual Computer Science Education Week activities for the high school level in our district. We previously used Code.org’s Hour of Code at all levels and made this decision after numerous visits to local middle schools to bring students through different kinds of coding workshops. Other links I would think about including are codecademy.com, Scratch, Kodu Game Lab, and more specialized resources for girls like Girls Who Code, Engineer Girl, and NCWIT. The graphic below has some more great resources for learning more about code from she++’s #include initiative pdf. I’m also a fan of student-run sites like CoderGirls and STEMpower Girls and story-based sites like ReigningIt.
Overall, I will be recommending Click’d. Maybe not to everyone because even though I liked the writing, it felt somewhat childish to me as a whole. I would be more hesitant to hand this to a high-schooler or adult (granted, that does depend on reader situation). But it is a phenomenal middle-grade novel, and I’m excited to see books moving in this direction and reflecting the changes in tech. 3.5 stars.