I do believe this is a book with a message, or at least a political point that requires the reader to be on one side of the purported issue or the other. You can't be more black and white than the slogan "You can't trust anyone over 25." You're either with it or not. So right from the get go, the author challenges you, and not dispassionately, but emotionally, from deep hurts and irreconcilable differences.
Doctorow, whose Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was delightful, elevates the emotional level by depicting his main protagonist going through a harrowing experience. This experience turns him into a YA version of the Vigilante. And the reader must buy this foundation in order to benefit from the rest of the story.
But I was looking for something more. A desire for the very science fiction-al matching intellectual intensity and extrapolation. And I did not find it. The emotionally-charged scenes that lead to the main character's transformation seem single-sided; the author seems to be playing chess against himself, deliberately making bad moves on one side of the board in order to make his side win gloriously. The effect is that the scenes and characters seem contrived, one-dimensional.
Afternote: Perhaps the book's depiction is really the way the youth view the older generation, that everything the seniors say and do is a direct affront to their liberty and desires. Being on the far side of 25, I can't say I remember being of this temperament and bull-headedness. All I do know is that you can't stay teen-age forever. Before you realize it, the years catch up with you, then you're looking from the other side.