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Penguin Young Readers Group
"Proxy" is by Alex London.

"PROXY," by Alex London, Philomel, $17.99, 370 pages (f) (ages 16 and up)

Knox is an upper-class, cocky, you-are-blessed-to-meet-him teen, living free from any real care or consequence — mostly because if he misbehaves in any way, he watches via video screen while his proxy gets punished for it.

Which brings us to Sydney — Knox's proxy. All Syd really wants is to live under the radar and off the grid in the very dregs of the slums; to pay back his debt with as little trouble as possible, and end his contract with his patron, Knox, whom he's never met before.

To put it simply, it's the prince and the pauper crashing into each other in a dystopian future (a world not unlike Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report"), where they discover that the only way to change their status quo is to help each other survive.

What makes Alex London's "Proxy" a great narrative is his excellent science-fiction world-building talent. London has expertly extrapolated a society that keeps its subjects in order by placing them in an ultra-connected network and making them pay their debts with time and punishment.

He has created fascinating genetically based advertisements that constantly flash on the sides of buildings and walls, holographic faces that make cellphones obsolete, contact lenses that allow users to see building layouts and contact others on the network, and genetically altered Guardians that enforce every law.

"Proxy" moves blindingly fast through a world of danger gone viral. It's science-fiction on a joy ride full of deceit and imagination. In the middle of it all there's Sydney, a poor, young outcast, unsure of whom to trust and learning to cope with being gay. He's an impoverished hacker-in-training who wants nothing more than to blend in but who quickly learns that he's probably the only person in the world who can't.

Parents should be aware that this book contains mild language and violence, as well as some drug use.

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