The Rene­gade Reporters

  • Review
By – February 17, 2022

Sixth graders Ash­ley and Maya love being on the staff of their school’s dai­ly online news pro­gram, Ash as reporter and anchor, with Maya behind the cam­era. When an error in judg­ment involv­ing some embar­rass­ing footage of a teacher is broad­cast­ed live, it results in Ash and Maya los­ing their news staff posi­tions, leav­ing rivals to take over their cov­et­ed spots. The two, along with a friend, Brielle, whose forte is edit­ing videos, decide to write and broad­cast their own news show instead. Set­ting up a rudi­men­ta­ry stu­dio in Ash’s base­ment, the new news team, now call­ing them­selves the Rene­gade Reporters, hope to pro­duce a show that will rival and per­haps sur­pass the offi­cial one at school.

Dili­gent research and report­ing by the Rene­gade Reporters grad­u­al­ly uncov­ers cor­rup­tion per­pe­trat­ed by Van Ness Media, the con­glom­er­ate that is the spon­sor of the school’s news show in addi­tion to being the sup­pli­er of much of the soft­ware used by the school. The mem­bers of the rene­gade crew are inquis­i­tive, coura­geous, and moti­vat­ed. They grad­u­al­ly become aware of the fact that large com­pa­nies are track­ing every loca­tion they attend, every move they make, every site they browse online.

Ash real­izes that many of the prod­ucts her fam­i­ly buys are the result of ads tar­get­ed specif­i­cal­ly to them. Dur­ing an out­door Rosh Hashanah ser­vice she attends with her fam­i­ly, she begins to under­stand that a cor­po­ra­tion track­ing her fam­i­ly can know not only that they cel­e­brate Rosh Hashanah, but also exact­ly which ser­vice they attend. She and her friends learn much about per­son­al pri­va­cy and its for­mi­da­ble chal­lenges in today’s soci­ety. They begin to under­stand that while many aspects of tech­nol­o­gy are ben­e­fi­cial, oth­ers are an inva­sion of pri­va­cy and may be used for nefar­i­ous purposes.

The efforts of the Rene­gade Reporters to break the sto­ry and uncov­er the truth behind the Van Ness Corporation’s shady prac­tices lead to an uproar with­in the school, where it appears that pow­er­ful cor­po­rate forces will win the day against a gut­sy and valiant group of stu­dents who want to expose them. Ash­ley, Maya, Brielle, and their friends need to stay on their toes, find cre­ative solu­tions to their prob­lems, and remind them­selves of what is tru­ly important.

In addi­tion to the afore­men­tioned Rosh Hashanah con­nec­tions, Yom Kip­pur is treat­ed thought­ful­ly and sub­stan­tive­ly, and it pro­vides a fil­ter for Ash to assess and eval­u­ate much of what she sees around her. Her friends are a diverse group, and her two dads, along with a younger broth­er and sis­ter present an appeal­ing por­trait of a warm, car­ing family.

Weiss­man adds a thought­ful author’s note explain­ing more about the dig­i­tal pri­va­cy issues that affect our lives.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions