Cassie McKinney has always believed in the Hive. Social media used to be out of control, after all. People were torn apart by trolls and doxxers. Even hackers - like Cassie's dad - were powerless against it. But then the Hive came. A better way to sanction people for what they do online. Cause trouble, get too many "condemns," and a crowd can come after you, teach you a lesson in real life. It's safer, fairer and perfectly legal. Entering her senior year of high school, filled with grief over an unexpected loss, Cassie is primed to lash out. Egged on by new friends, she makes an edgy joke online. Cassie doubts anyone will notice. But the Hive notices everything. And as her viral comment whips an entire country into a frenzy, the Hive demands retribution. One moment Cassie is anonymous; the next, she's infamous. And running for her life. With nowhere to turn, she must learn to rely on herself - and a group of Hive outcasts who may not be reliable - as she slowly uncovers the truth about the machine behind the Hive. New York Times bestselling authors Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden have teamed up for the first time to create a novel that's gripping, terrifying and more relevant every day, based on a story proposal by Jennifer Beals and Tom Jacobson.
The idea behind this book is chilling, especially since it feels like we could be headed in this direction as a society. The novel’s concept, by Jennifer Beals and Tom Jacobson, clearly taps into Twitter’s outrage and apology culture of present day, while also offering a solution for handling bullies who currently hide behind their keyboards without any real ramifications. Unfortunately for Cassie, the punishment doesn’t quite fit the crime, which begs the question, when do we know we’ve gone too far?
Based on the idea alone, THE HIVE has a lot of potential, but never fully meets it. The book starts off slow with the first hundred pages primarily existing to set up backstory and character. A lot of the beginning is unnecessary as the inciting incident doesn’t happen until page ninety-six and instead, could have been filtered in throughout instead of used as a massive info-dump. It’s not until Cassie finds herself in a life or death situation that the pace begins to pick up. Part of this has to do with the fact that the authors make Hive Justice an activity in which only part of the population participates. As a result, the stakes feel low and casual, until all of a sudden, they almost inexplicably don’t.
Once Cassie has been sentenced, there are a series of events that are hard to believe. The most garish one is that Cassie, a highly intelligent and distrustful girl, would choose to text someone she didn’t know that well and tell her where she’s been hiding. This felt like a plot device to get Cassie discovered and it immediately took me out of the story as it was more convenient than realistic. It also felt like the authors discovered the message they were trying to communicate only at the end of the book, which made it less effective and impactful.
Overall, THE HIVE is a very interesting idea that as a book gets better as you go along. The ending is strong, leaving a possibility for a sequel, and perhaps, a second chance to do right by this world. I enjoyed the note Lyga and Baden went out on and appreciate the conversation this could potentially launch.