Believathon: Reread a Childhood Favourite – Hacker by Malorie Blackman

For my childhood favourite Believathon reread there was strong competition from the fantasy and Blyton ranks but Littlefae picked this from the selection and I’m so pleased she did as it was a wonderful read.

I loved this book as a child, I totally credit Malorie Blackman and this book with beginning my love of thrillers especially crime ones!

This also doubles up for: Friendship, Featuring Real life Issues, and of reading an edition from the 1990s set in the past! I’d like to this think is a children’s classic too.

Victoria Gibson is in trouble, she wrote a program to allow her calculator to work out the angles of a shape in her maths exam but her teachers are acting like she’s done something terrible with threats of suspension and worse.

Unfortunately the dread to tell her parents is eclipsed by the news her father has been arrested for stealing £1 million from his bank! She knows he is innocent but how can she PROVE it?!

Feeling guilty and scared she decides she must do what she can to save him, even if it means hacking into the bank to trawl the files for the truth….

I picked up my calculator. That’s when I had my mega-brilliant idea. I looked from the exam paper to my calculator and back again. I’m ok at maths but computing is my subject.

As a child I devoured this book. For one, I was fascinated with the computer technology in the book much like I was obsessed later on in my early teens with Hackers the Jonny Lee Miller & Angelina Jolie film (that seemed to be a late night schedule filler for so long and I was rather young to watch!). This arcane artform of typing into computers and uncovering secrets through data seemed just as amazing as wizards casting spells to me and yet Malorie made it exciting without infodumping a lot of technical jargon, so very very clever!

Secondly, I loved the mystery factor, the fear factor as Vicky and Gib get into perilous situations trying to uncover who set up their father from hacking into the bank computer, and my heart used to just about burst out my chest when Vicky gets trapped! The sophisticated plot made my pulse pound but the heart of it made me care.

Anxious seconds passed as we waited.

Oh how I idolised Vicky. Victoria Gibson is nestled in my soul next to Hermione with her unashamed intelligence, I was in awe of her grit and determination to challenge the expectation to just accept what was happening to her family.

Yet also like me she had a wobbly sense of self- each of ours caused by different reasons- she made me feel less alone that someone as awesome as Vicky could feel like she didn’t quite belong either in her case due to her being adopted.

Suddenly all the hurt and anger that is been through over the last few days came flooding out of my mouth

Reading this again after many years was like sinking back into glorious nostalgia. The edition that I read is different in a few little edits to the one I read to pieces. This is understandable as obviously little edits or asides like checking time on DVD player not vhs, check the broadband, grab her mobile and so on doesn’t detract from or change the plot in the way that say Home Alone would never have happened if people had mobile phones. This shows that Malorie’s work has a universal appeal to still be exciting even though the original inspiring technology is now obsolete.

Hacker was a watershed moment in my childhood. Up to that point largely thanks to my working-class west London suburb‘s limited availability of children’s literature offering Blyton or Dahl. Thanks particularly to Blyton what was presented was a rather old fashioned, perhaps rose tinted and unattainably privileged view of childhood in fiction. We had all read Tracey Beaker behind Dick King-Smith covers after they were banned at our very Catholic Primary school but they never quite captured me- and to be fair that sort of contemporary drama has never really been my thing since either so it’s not Jacqueline Wilson it’s me.

I need proof. Concrete, indisputable proof.

It wasn’t until my mum picked Hacker up in a second hand children’s sale (my mum installed both a money-wise but also romantic idea of giving second hand books a second chance at a loving home very young!) that my eyes were awoken not just to a love of contemporary thriller, but to an experience that was different from my own (but in other ways not very so) with stories about children who didn’t look like me but I was invested in their feelings and hopes and worries, and they would do amazing things in books and I could cheer them on.

I have read since that Malorie Blackman struggled to get books like Hacker into the world and how she had been determined to do so because of all the children who grew up without seeing their own faces and families in books as white children did.

I’m thankful that Malorie Blackman made those early fights for inclusion, because children like me needed to see different faces too. I actually remember a teacher in my primary school asking me why I was reading a book about a black girl, and I said because it’s brilliant. Looking back I’m horrified that this was an attitude given freely to children and furthermore it’s eye opening that in my childish innocence and white privilege I didn’t intuit let alone understand the racist aggression there or why the teacher didn’t think a book like Hacker was for children like me.

However, this book certainly changed the landscape for me to see beyond the idealised white privileged diet that books had offered me previously. Society still has a long way to go but with more and more authors creating diverse and inclusive books and the works of children’s publishers such as Knights Of there is Hope. I’m glad that Malorie was part of those that pushed the way through the brambles of slumber & ignorance and held a hand backwards to help others through to show that ALL children deserve to see books as windows AND mirrors.

I didn’t want people to think I was trying to think I was trying to be grand or something, because I wasn’t. But Victoria was such a grand name. VIC-TOR-EEE-AH!

I have a rather heartfelt love towards this book for how it changed the way I thought about storytelling, about families, about myself and opened my mind to inclusive protagonists, to contemporary thriller and crime- mystery books too but also galvanised a desire to make sure my own children have both diverse and inclusive books on their shelves.

Hacker by Malorie Blackman was originally published in the UK by Doubleday in 1992 and is currently reissued by Corgi Children’s.

5 thoughts on “Believathon: Reread a Childhood Favourite – Hacker by Malorie Blackman

  1. Ah, I loved reading this – it’s so clear what an important role this book played for you in lots of ways.
    I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read a Malorie Blackman! She’s another author that I keep meaning to go back and read but then keeps getting sidelined for new releases! I really need to get on to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll be fair and I haven’t read her other middle grade books like I did Hacker and I don’t remember say Pig Heart Boy as much as this BUT I haven’t read Noughts and Crosses and would really like to before the adaptation comes out!!

      Liked by 1 person

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