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“Sometimes it’s best not to turn over every rock in a person’s life. Especially if they’ve treated you well. If they have fed you and clothed you and provided you a comfortable life that you enjoy, one you would not wish to see compromised,” Professor Worth. –The Cipher
by John C. Ford
Robert “Smiles” Smylie is not a genius. He feels like he’s surrounded by them, though, from his software mogul dad to his brainy girlfriend to his oddball neighbor Ben, a math prodigy. When Ben cracks an ancient riddle central to modern data encryption systems, Ben suddenly holds the power to unlock every electronic secret in the world—and Smiles finally has a chance to prove his own worth.
Smiles hatches a plan to protect Ben from the government agents who will stop at nothing to get their hands on his discovery. But as Smiles races from a Connecticut casino to the streets of Boston, enlisting the help of an alluring girl, he comes to realize the most explosive secrets don’t lie between the covers of Ben’s notebook—they’re buried in his own past.
With topics such as public-key cryptography, the Riemann Hypothesis, and prime numbers, readers may be reluctant to pick up The Cipher. However, the mystery and thriller aspects of the story will quickly draw readers into the story and keep them entertained until the last page. The story explains many mathematical principles in a way that makes the math accessible to all readers. Even though the story focuses on math concepts, Smiles’ family life, his love life, and the mystery behind his birth mother combine to make a truly entertaining read.
Even though Smiles doesn’t have to worry about money, his life is a mess. His adoptive mother died in a tragic car accident. He feels like he is a disappointment to his father. His birth mother rejected his attempt to reach out to her. Plus, he was kicked out of his prestigious high school for having weed in his dorm room. To make matters worse, his longtime girlfriend, Melanie, broke up with him. Smiles is a complete and total mess, and many teens will relate to Smiles’ wide range of emotions and the feeling that he isn’t sure what he should do with his life. Despite Smiles’ messy life, readers will find themselves rooting for him.
Ford writes his story in the third person point of view, which allows readers to see the same events from different people’s perspectives. This adds a layer of depth and intrigue. In the end, each character reveals a different piece of the mystery. The thought-provoking conclusion will leave readers questioning morality, forgiveness, and the nature of love. Readers looking for a fast-paced mystery full of surprises will find all that and more in The Cipher.
- After his girlfriend gives him a birthday gift, Smiles kisses her. Without thinking he “was dipping his head and drawing toward her. Kissing her. Tender but intense, soft but electric.”
- While in high school, Smiles tried to seduce his high school math teacher.
- A girl says she wouldn’t want to be a cheerleader and have “Greg Simmons palm my ass ten feet in the air for a whole football game.”
- At a math conference, Smiles meets Erin. They promise to “stick together” and then “their lips met with a wild energy.”
- After kissing Erin, Smiles thinks, “Melanie didn’t kiss him like this. Not at all. There was something hungry about it, something that made Smiles feel more desired than he’d ever been in his life. . . [Erin’s] lips were soft and yielding, her murmurs a hum of delight.” Someone walks into the room and interrupts them.
- Smiles kisses Erin several more times, but the kisses are not described.
- Smiles takes Erin to his family’s cabin. After they go into the hot tub, Erin goes upstairs. Smiles thinks, “And right now there was a hot girl lying on a bed upstairs, waiting for him.” It is implied that Erin and Smiles have sex.
- A man goes to an affluent neighborhood, puts a package in the mailbox, and then shoots himself.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Smiles’ father is in the hospital dying of cancer. He’s given morphine for the pain.
- When he was little, Smiles’ mom taught him to “make daiquiris (virgin for him, double rum for her).”
- Smiles considers making “a beer pong app for smartphones for when you were drinking but didn’t have a Ping-Pong table around.”
- While in a conference room, Smiles sees his birth mother who is “flush with wine.”
- When stressed, Smiles thinks “he really could have used a Xanax or something.”
- For vacation, Smiles’ family and their friends would go to a cabin. “The moms would pair off and have drinks on the deck.”
- When Melanie’s father was overly tired, he would have “a glass or two of Cabernet.”
- Smiles was kicked out of his private prep school because he had weed in his closet. Later, he thinks about the first time he got stoned.
- An adult in the story drinks whiskey.
- Profanity is used occasionally. Profanity includes ass, bastard, bitchy, crap, piss, hell, and shit.
- Infrequently, the phrases oh God and God are used as an exclamation.
- Several times Smiles prays for something. For example, when Smiles sees a hot girl, he “prayed to a merciful God she would stop at the check-in. She did.”
- When the NSA kidnaps Smiles’ friend, Ben, Smiles “prayed someone would intervene, but there were no witnesses in the lot.”
- When Melanie sneaks a file out of an office, she put it in her purse and “could only pray that Jenna wouldn’t open it and see.”