PopCo tells the story of Alice Butler-a subversively smart girl in our commercial-soaked world who grows from recluse orphan to burgeoning vigilante, buttressed by mystery, codes, math, and the sense her grandparents gave her that she could change the world.
Alice-slight introvert, crossword compositor- works at PopCo, a globally successful and slightly sinister toy company. Lured by their CEO to a Thought Camp out on the moors, PopCo's creatives must invent the ultimate product for teenage girls. Meanwhile, Alice receives bizarre, encrypted messages she suspects relate to her grandfather's decoding of a centuries-old manuscript that many-including her long-disappeared father-believe leads to buried treasure. Its key, she's sure, is engraved on the necklace she's been wearing since she was ten. Using the skills she learned from her grandparents and teaching us aspects of cryptanalysis, Alice discovers the source of these creepy codes. Will this lead her to the mysterious treasure or another, even more carefully guarded secret?
The code-breaking and -making heroine of Thomas's latest smart, engaging novel (after Going Out) takes a critical view of the corporate marketing of cool, an exploit she knows from inside the rapaciously hip boardrooms of the titular British toy company, the third largest in the world. Twenty-nine-year-old Alice Butler has parlayed her expertise in "crosswords, cryptography, and cryptanalysis"-talents she gained from her mathematically inclined grandparents-into a job at PopCo's Ideation and Design department, where she creates sleuthing kits for kids (KidSpy, KidTec and KidCracker). At a companywide countryside retreat (aka "Thought Camp"), the CEO selects Alice to help invent a product that will spark a craze for teenage girls. While Alice looks into her past for insight to this inadequately tapped market-and for clues to her own identity-she also ponders a locket from her grandfather that may contain the code to a centuries-old puzzle. As Alice works on PopCo's blockbuster product and decodes the ancient brainteaser, as well as encrypted messages from an anonymous PopCo colleague, she becomes increasingly disenchanted with her employer's ubiquitous branding, advertising and exploitation of young consumers. Thomas delivers a captivating heroine and a pointed cultural critique that will especially resonate with the No Logo crowd. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.