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After William wins a prototype AI-driven car called Autonomous (nicknamed Otto), he is psyched. He can finally have the senior year road trip he always wanted with his three best friends, Christina, Daniel and Melissa. But there are dark secrets lurking between all four of them, and Otto is ready to unearth them all.

Autonomous vehicles like Otto are fascinating. They are our future but also our present. If you recall, there was an accident in Arizona where an Uber autonomous car crashed into a pedestrian and killed her. This was the first of the autonomous crashes, and I suspect not the last.

"If you want a peek into the future with bots and secret unveiled, this is the book for you."

I wanted to read this book to explore this future. AUTONOMOUS does not go too deep into the technology, though. Everything we read about is to be accepted at face value. A privacy shroud? Sure, that exists. Emojis filling a car? Sure, go ahead. I did not like that the book did not go into very much detail with the technology, especially since this is the beginning of autonomous vehicles and not the middle of their boom in popularity. Otto has too many tech gadgets to seem believable. I am not saying I do not want privacy shrouds, but I do not believe in them with one of the first iterations of the autonomous vehicle.

Out of all the characters, I liked Melissa the best. Not because she is a good girl but because she had a personality. William is too flat. His faults are not explored until deep into the book, and by that point, his character development is irredeemable. Daniel is flat too. His thoughts are interesting, but his emotional state is never explored. Everything is seen through the other characters' eyes, and he never gets a chance to explain himself.

Melissa is sarcastic and has big dreams. I am not a big fashion fan, but she was into it and into pursuing her future. Though she makes some terrible mistakes, she pushes through it all. I admire her tenacity.

Christina, on the other hand, is interesting but not my favorite. She is sneaky and cunning. Her commentary on Melissa and Daniel's relationship is quirky and unexpected. Other than that, though, she is a horrible person. She is one of the hackers people hope to never cross. I understand her feeling of third-wheeling as I have experienced it before, but she took it too far. She pushed limits she should not have pushed. While her relationship with William is cute, it is too much like the stereotypical next-door-neighbors-turned-lovers trope.

The thing I disliked the most was the lack of depth to William and Daniel's characters. They had problems (who does not?), but the book did not go in depth about who they were or why they were like that. This is a problem that many books with multiple narrators have. Instead of focusing on one person (all of their faults and thoughts), they focus on everyone. The story is spread too thin, and focus is only on one or two characters (Melissa and Christina in this book's case). It is sad because the other characters had potential to be amazing, but their development fell flat. I had to just accept who they were, and that was all.

The plot itself had potential. The car-based laser tag was exciting. There were raised stakes after Christina decided to pursue Rainmaker relentlessly. It was thrilling to see Otto take control of the car and force them down a path they did not want to take. This scene highlights Otto's decisionmaking and how he puts fun for his passengers above anything else, including their safety.

After that, though, the plot was too focused on the characters and their secrets and not the road trip. This is fine when the book is not supposed to be a road trip book, but this book is specifically a road trip book. I wanted to see more of their adventures and learn more about the characters through their actions. Instead, everything is force-fed by Otto. Yes, Otto is supposed to be the impetus for all of the secrets and reveals, but it is too much when the characters spend almost all of their time in a car talking to each other.

If you want a peek into the future with bots and secret unveiled, this is the book for you.

Reviewed by Wren L., Teen Board Member on April 9, 2018

by Andy Marino