By Seija Rankin
September 03, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
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Penguin Random House

David Yoon has already conquered the YA space — his debut, Frankly in Love, was an instant New York Times bestseller and his follow-up, Super Fake Love Song, will hit shelves in November — and now he's turning his sights to the adult market. Version Zero will release on May 25, 2021, and EW is exclusively revealing the book's cover and a sneak peek inside the pages.

The novel centers around Max, a data expert at social media company Wren (think: Facebook), who discovers the dark side of Silicon Valley when he asks too many questions about Wren's data collections and becomes effectively blacklisted by the entire industry. He recruits his friend, Akiko, to help him break the Internet — literally. They team up with a highly secretive tech mogul to reboot the entire digital system.

Below, read an excerpt from Version Zero's first chapter.

**

0.1

Max was 26.

It was way back in the year 2018. Summer. Remember? Hashtags and don’t-text-and-drive and fear-of-missing-out and virtual reality. Selfies and the Troll President and revenge porn. All that.

Max walked in the white Californian sunlight. He walked into a village made of glass. The village was Wren. Wren was the world’s largest social network. A social network was a computer program where many-many people could share their thoughts/photos/videos and also share other people’s thoughts/photos/videos. Then they would talk about it all. Sometimes fight. Mostly fight.

For some reason, this kind of thing was hugely popular in the year 2018.

Wren’s only product was Wren itself. It had been started by two college kids who worked hard and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and exhibited Yankee ingenuity and blah,

blah,

blah.

Everyone used Wren, everyone loved it, everyone hated it. And as strange as it sounds, Wren was everything. People used it for news. For gossip. Social plans. Dining tips. Political views. Dating. Shopping. Driving directions. Blablabla.

As strange as it sounds, three billion people used Wren every day on their smart-phones. The people could not stop themselves. They said they were addicted.

Back then being addicted to tech was considered a good thing.

Tech meant anything involving computer programs, especially the ones used by many-many people. It was different from technology, which meant non-computer things like building bridges and inventing medicines.

Max wore a hoodie. It gave him entrepreneurial élan. All CEOs in the tech industry wore hoodies as symbols of egalitarianism belying their positions of supreme power. Tech CEOs could probably get everyone on the planet to chew more gum with a simple edit to their news algorithms, if they wished. But they did no such thing. For they were good men.

Wren’s number-one rule was this: Don’t be evil.

One day Max wanted to be a CEO of his very own Wren.

Max wanted to put a dent in the universe. But in a good way.

His Benevolence, CEO Maximilian Portillo.

For now, Max was in Product.

He walked across the colossal hexagonal green populated with Wrennies playing volleyball, holding yoga poses, or lying about. Three men — Mexican, maybe — were setting up some kind of epic barbecue. They eyed Max as he walked past.

I am not you, Max wanted to say. I’m supposed to be Salvadoran. But I was born here. My Spanish sucks. So, you know.

Max felt the constant need to explain himself. He felt it now.

He entered a glass building. He passed Maurice, the African-American security guard. He waved to Aimee, the ever-smiling Whitewoman at Reception.

He passed through the large bullpen full of brown-skinned programmers from India and Thailand and so on. Max, though brown-skinned, was not one of them. Wren put the programmers first as a show of prowess for visitors. The popular belief was that really good programming could solve all social problems, like housing or racism or bullying or sexism or deceit or greed or loneliness.

Anyway.

Max passed through Marketing with its many Whitewomen and arrived at Product, with its many tall and hale Whitemen. Max was not one of them either. Max had long given up on being one of anyone. He decided to simply be one of himself.

This meant Max had no tribe to speak of, which Max disliked. But it also exempted him from the expectations and assumptions of a tribe, which Max liked.

So Max chose his own tribe: Product. And despite being the only brown-skinned one there, Max did not feel like a fly in milk. Maybe it was because Max was happily deluded. Maybe it was because Product was Max’s play space, a mental sanctuary where he could dream up new Wren features and generally make up his own rules as he went along as conjurers do. Max was Senior Product, the youngest ever in Wren’s ten-year history to achieve such a rank.

“Mister Max,” said Justin Richards, a tall and hale Whiteman, Max’s boss only in title. Justin Richards, and Wren in general, did not believe in titles. Titles were a big pile of bull. Work was not work, either. Work was called hanging out.

“Mister Justin,” said Max.

They fist-bumped.

“Drop what you’re working on,” said cool-boss Justin Richards. “The Helix wants you.”

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