By Ekta R. Garg
February 20, 2019
Release date: February 19, 2019
Rated: Bordering on Bookmark it! / 3.5 stars
A group of teenagers take revenge on a parent when his indifference prevents one of them from going to college. As the friends navigate their elaborate plan, their relationships will reach new junctures. They’ll also have to decide whether their anger is worth risking all of their futures. Debut author Lillian Clark brings to her story five relatable protagonists in the mostly enjoyable novel Immoral Code.
It’s their senior year of high school, and Bellamy, Santiago, Nari, Keagan, and Reese all have big plans for life after graduation. Reese spends her days mapping her route around the world while using her art to express herself. Long-time couple Nari and Keagan know they’ll stay together no matter where they end up, although Nari has a clearer vision of that than Keagan does. Nari’s wicked smart when it comes to coding and hacking, and she’s just a few keystrokes away from joining one of the giants like Google or Apple. Keagan doesn’t care where he goes as long as he can hold Nari’s hand on the journey. Santiago got recruited by Stanford on a diving scholarship long before this last year of high school and plans to compete for Olympic gold.
Bellamy, physics genius and daughter of a single mother, knows MIT is for her. She filled out the paperwork with diligence, even if that meant thinking of the father who left her behind. Bellamy’s mother and Robert Foster dated in high school and got pregnant. Robert fled town, but at least he sends money to Bellamy and her mother. Considering he’s a billionaire now, it’s the least he can do.
Until that money comes in the way of Bellamy’s dreams. Her student loan application at MIT is denied. There was no way she was going to MIT on her father’s dime, hence the loan application. Even after sending the necessary paperwork in a timely fashion, through lawyers, to her father to make sure her application stood independently of his income, he still manages to mess this up. Just like he’s messed up pretty much her entire life by denying that she exists.
The friends rally around Bellamy and begin brainstorming ways to help her out, which prompts a dangerous discussion: what if they figure out a way to steal the money from Robert Foster? Given the number of zeroes he must have in his bank balance, would Foster even notice that the money was missing? The friends explore the idea and decide to make it a reality, but even they can’t imagine how their actions will push them into unexplored territory in their individual relationships with one another as well as a group.
Author Lillian Clark captures the voices of her teen protagonists with ease. Each of the friends has his or her own fears and hopes, their own desires and their own uncertainties; despite the challenge of flipping between five points of view, Clark manages to make each of them distinct. Readers in the target audience will find at least one “friend” among this set and will most likely warm up to the group as a whole.
Clark also doesn’t shy away from testing the relationships, especially Nari and Keagan’s, considered at the outset the most solid of the group. Righteous indignation can only take a person so far, as the couple discovers. One of them approves wholeheartedly of their revenge mission; the other experiences ambivalence, which also brings up a challenge to that character’s inner strength and a new facet to the romance. Clark lets her characters hurt one another with words and unintended actions; just because they’re teenagers doesn’t mean everything comes up rainbows and roses all the time.
If the book falters, it’s in the over exposure to the friendships and the lack of time spent on the heist. Readers might find themselves getting a little impatient for the action to get rolling. Clark does an excellent job of establishing her characters early and with solidity. Instead of letting that solidity stand on its own, however, she insists on building more onto that platform before finally moving on to the main action. As a result, the heist really doesn’t get its full due, and parts of it feel a little unreal.
Readers looking for a fun, quick book will certainly enjoy this one, however, and it offers enough unique perspectives to make most members of the target audience happy. I believe Immoral Code Borders on Bookmarking it.