In Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s latest middle-grade novel Me and Banksy, a small group of eighth-graders tackle school security and privacy violations.
Aspiring artist Dominica “Dom” Rivers and her best friends – former child star Holden and brilliant, IT–whiz Saanvi – attend a Vancouver private academy where the stringent principal, Ms. Plante, rigidly practises the school’s motto “Security breeds success.” Cameras are in just about every hallway and room.
Somehow, footage from those cameras of Dom turning her school uniform inside out in an unoccupied corner of the library ends up online – and goes semi-viral. Subsequent bullying and Ms. Plante’s accusations that Dom acted inappropriately send the girl reeling.
In a bit of serendipitous timing, Dom’s grandmother, who owns an art gallery, has recently loaned Dom a book about Banksy. Studying the artist’s statements on surveillance culture and digital obsession, Dom and her friends plot a large-scale, covert art project. Planning to unveil their secret installation during a student showcase, the trio hopes to draw attention to the menace of constant, proliferating surveillance, and Ms. Plante’s disturbing lack of reaction to security breaches.
Me and Banksy speaks to young, impassioned teens involved in student-led action against injustice and draconian power. Unafraid to write up to readers or to tackle meaty and divisive topics, Kyi is equally adept at engaging readers with comedy, pop-culture references, and emotionally charged moments. She smoothly transitions between an Exit Through the Gift Shop movie night, goofy group texts, a short dive into the life of women’s rights activist Henrietta Edwards, and a young girl’s complicated feelings for a BFF.
As incisive as it is funny, Me and Banksy offers strongly drawn characters and sharp insights about protest, victimization, and the precarious nature of surveillance.