Title: The Oracle Code
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Illustrator: Manuel Preitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Publishing Date: 2020
Genre/Format of the Item: Book-Graphic Novel
2020 Junior Library Guild
2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
2021-2022 Black-Eyed Susan Book Award Nominee
Reading Level/Interest Level:
Grades 7-11 (NoveList)
Plot Summary: Barbara Gordon is an expert hacker and sleuth extraodinaire. Barbara (aka Babs) tried to stop a crime and was shot and paralyzed from the waist down. Barbara was sent to Arkham Center for Independence, a rehabilitation center, to learn how to live in a wheelchair. Barbara is furious with her situation and tries desperately to avoid becoming friends with the other patients. One patient, Jena, is persistent in her desire to become friends with Barbara and visits her at night to tell her stories. These stories are chillingly spooky and tell of lost children and fading ghosts. Barbara has a sense that something is not right about the center but can’t quite figure out what it is until one day Jena goes missing.
Barbara comes to the realization that she is in control of her body and herself still. She reaches out to make new friends at the same time that her old best friend, Benjamin, finally works up the nerve to visit her. Benjamin finds important information that proves that patients don’t leave Arkham. Barbara recruits her new friends to help her solve the mystery of the missing patients. Bravery and pure grit urge the teens to find out the answers that may get them killed in the process. Barbara proves that she still has what it takes to be a master hacker.
Author Background: Marieke Nijkamp lives in Small Town, Netherlands and is the author of many novels, graphic novels, and comics. Nijkamp majored in medieval history and philosophy in college. Nijkamp is the founder of DiversifYA and was also a founding senior Vice President of We Need Diverse Books (Nijkamp, n.d.).
Critical Evaluations: I really enjoyed reading this book. The premise is a new take on the DC character of Barbara Goodman and it is full of spunk and determination. I think it is really important for books to represent all people of all abilities and it was refreshing to see a DC Comic that highlighted disabled characters. The characters had depth and a full range of emotions. I felt Barbara’s frustrations and her fears, but I could also feel her satisfaction and confidence grow throughout the book. Manuel Preitano did an excellent job depicting a wide range of diverse characters. I liked how he chose to portray major characters in color with background characters in monochrome colors that blended into the background. The emotions and were expertly drawn on the faces. This book delves into a wide range of themes and topics, from grief to recovery. I think that teens will be able to relate to Barbara as she struggles to accept changes in her life. I also really like that Nijkamp shows that disabled people can thrive and find joy and happiness. Overall, this was an excellent graphic novel.
Every reader deserves to see themselves as a hero”–Marieke Nijkamp (We Ned Diverse Books, 2020)
Creative Use for a Library Program: This book could be showcased in a library program that highlights diverse characters, particularly disabled characters. During Disability Awareness month, this book could be on display. One evening during the month, the library could host a teen event that looks at ability awareness in YA fiction. There would be representatives from the group A Touch of Understanding . The teens would have the chance to experience a “Dark Meal”. A dark meal includes being blindfolded and using a cane to walk to a table to eat a meal with peers. This would give teens an understanding about the experiences of people who have vision/hearing disabilities and those on the autism-spectrum disorder (Touch of Understanding, n.d.). This would be funded by the Friends of the Library.
Speedround/Book Trailer: Meet Barbara Gordon, aka Babs. Barbara is an expert hacker and lives to solve mysteries. After being caught in the crossfires while trying to save someone, a bullet paralyzes Babs from the waist down. Angry, frustrated, and lost, Barbara slowly begins to realize that her new reality is not so different from her old life. Stronger and wiser, Barbara puts her hacker skills to the ultimate test. Read The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp to find out more!
Potential Challenge Issues/Defense Preparations: This book may be challenged for depictions of violence and the abuse of teenagers and children. I would defend this book because I think that it is an important piece of work for DC Comics. It is important to have disabled people see themselves in comics and books in general. This book shows fierce determination and a will to survive. I think that teens will be able to identify with Barbara in many different ways.
Reason for Inclusion: There are so many reasons to include this book. I really wanted to find a YA book that highlighted disabled characters because I want all teens to find themselves in the characters of my collection. This quote from Marieke Nijkamp really says it all, “Another reason is that, all throughout ALA Midwinter, the DC booth had a gigantic The Oracle Code banner. It featured Babs, a white girl who uses a wheelchair, Issy, a Black girl who uses a wheelchair, and Yeong, a Korean-American girl who uses crutches. They’re huddled together, reading. And I cannot tell you how many people (including me) burst into tears upon seeing it, because it’s still so rare to see more than one physically disabled person represented, to see disabled joy shine that bright.” (We Need Diverse Books, 2020).
A Touch of Understanding. (n.d.). Dark Meal. https://touchofunderstanding.org/programs-resources/overview-dark-meals/
DC. (2020, March 1). The Oracle Code: Official Trailer [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s0ZicTDQ0U
Nikjkamp, M. (n.d.). Press kit. https://www.mariekenijkamp.com/musings/press-kit/
We Need Diverse Books. (2020, March 9). Q & A with Marieke Nijkamp: The Oracle Code. https://diversebooks.org/qa-with-marieke-nijkamp-the-oracle-code/