True to the title of the book, Little Brother is a reference to many of the conflicts present in George Orwell's 1984, it presents them on a far more diminished and therefore more intimate scale. After skipping school on the same day as a terrorist attack, Marcus and his three friends are captured by the Departments of Homeland Security and are questioned for a number of days before finally being released. However, Darryl, one of the friends that was injured in the abduction, is nowhere to be found. The conflict of the book is born out of Marcus's outrage at the violations of his civil rights, and the action of the book begs the question of how much of our liberty is appropriate to forfeit for the promise of security.
Galvanized by the mystery of his still missing friend, Marcus uses his knowledge of technology to create a mesh network called XNet, which functions as a completely encrypted network, allowing Marcus to communicate freely with other sympathetic citizens about ideas that subvert what they consider to be a surveillance state. The conflict becomes a fight between Marcus and the DHS over the rights of citizens to privacy and freedom as well as the whereabouts of his missing friend.