Dec 8, 2022

Review--Phantom Wheel by Tracy Deebs


The digital apocalypse has arrived and the future is here in this addictive technological thriller full of twists and turns. Perfect for fans of Nerve!

Being recruited by the CIA to join a top-secret intelligence program should be the opportunity of a lifetime. For Issa, it's a shot at creating a new and better life for herself and her siblings. For clever con artist Harper, it's a chance to bury the secrets of her troubled past and make sure that those secrets stay buried. But for Owen--honor student, star quarterback, and computer-hacking genius--it sounds like a trap.

He's right.

Owen discovers that instead of auditioning for the CIA, they've all been tricked by a multibillion-dollar tech company into creating the ultimate computer virus. It's called Phantom Wheel, and it's capable of hacking anyone on Earth, anywhere, at any time. And thanks to six teenagers, it's virtually unstoppable.

Horrified by what they've done, the hackers must team up to stop the virus before the world descends into chaos. But working together is easier said than done, especially as the lines start to blur between teammate, friend, and more than friend. Because how do you learn to trust someone when you've spent your entire life exploiting that same trust in others?


Tracy Deebs brings about another chilling thriller with Phantom Wheel that sets forth a pretty terrifying plot that I feel could really happen, especially in this day and age! Phantom Wheel follows six teenage hackers who thought they were simply competing for a scholarship but ended up taking part in creating a virus that could ultimately tear society apart and now they must work together to correct their mistake and take down the company that misled them!

After reading Deebs' thriller, Doomed, I was all set to read yet another suspense read that would terrify me to my core with it's possibility of somehow actually happening in our society! This one may not have been as intense as Doomed, as the teenagers are trying to prevent the virus from actually doing what it was meant to do, so the big scary hasn't happened, but just knowing that it could was enough to have me looking at my phone differently, that's for sure!

We follow six teenage hackers, Issa, Ezra, Seth, Harper, Alika, and Owen who were brought in by the CIA to have a chance at earning a full ride scholarship to college and a job waiting for them afterwards. They just had to complete the test laid out especially for them, but Owen took one look at his and left without completing it. A few weeks later though, after some digging, he's reaching out to everyone as he came to a very terrifying conclusion...they'd been played.

Now the six teens come back together and uncover that there was never any CIA involvement with their possible scholarship. It was all the working of Jacento, a very large, very notorious company who was basically wanting a virus created that would basically allow them control over everyone's cellphone, no matter the type and get them to do whatever they wanted--be it vote for certain things, buy this, buy that...the possibilities were endless.

Although we have six teenagers at the helm, we only get three points of view in this one. I was a bit thrown by this, as I kind of thought we'd get everyone's perspective, but it still works well with just the three, and I will admit, it's a little less overwhelming too as I've read books with up to six or seven points of view and it can be a lot! Although, sometimes I found myself wondering what the other three were thinking during the events, but no matter.

The pacing to this one was fast and intense! As just days after the "test" was held, Owen starts putting things together and with Alika's help, gets everyone together again to realize their mistake and how they were going to fix it. And it was so intense! I am not in any way a tech guru, I can barely cooperate with technology on a good day, but even I was able to follow along for the most part with what was happening. Sure some of the actual hacking skills and talks of coding were a bit beyond my knowledge span, but I was able to get the general idea across even if I had no clue what exactly they were always typing so fast on their keyboards! Lol.

The characters to this were all amazing too! We had quite the variety from the millionaire playboy, to the down-trodded girl, to a politician's daughter, to the wacky comic relief...everyone had a role to play, yet despite appearances they were all super smart, which is expected since they were all hackers and what not! There were some developing romances between some of the characters. Not everyone ended up with someone, which you almost sort of expected what with there being 6 individuals, but it worked well with who ended up with who. Although, I will say that the romance took a far backseat to the story as it was meant to do. It was just a side element in the long run but I enjoyed watching the two relationships develop in the way that they did.

While we did get reasons behind why all their parents wouldn't have noticed them being missing for so many days at a time--after the scholarship debacle--I was still kind of amazed that people of privilege really wouldn't notice that their child as gone. I mean explanations are given, don't get me wrong, I guess just even trying to conceive going somewhere as a teenager and my mom not calling the cops wondering what happened to me is something that takes a bit of believing on my part. But again, I realize that even fictional families aren't always perfect or close enough.

The ending to this one was satisfying! It's a standalone so you can expect resolution and happy enough endings. Although I do wonder what will become of the teenagers and their relationships since they came from all over the States. Tiny details that a reader always wonders after the fact, but really play no part in the story. I guess in my happy brained mind, I would say that their friendships continued despite the distance and with college just being around the corner the friends would find themselves together again soon, somehow, some way, because yes, I am a sappy kind of reader at the best of times! Lol.

If you're looking for a fun and suspense filled read that I would look no further than Phantom Wheel! It kept me on the edge of my seat and turning the pages eager to see how these teens would ultimately save the world...even if no one really knew it! It's a fun read and will be sure to keep you entertained until its fitting end!

Overall Rating 4.5/5 stars

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