Tuesday, January 3, 2012

All Good Children by Catherine Austen

All Good Children by Catherine Austen (Orca, 2011)

Summary from publisher:
Quick-witted, prank-pulling graffiti artist Maxwell Connors is more observant than the average New Middletown teenager.  And he doesn't like what he sees.  New Middletown's children are becoming frighteningly obedient, and their parents and teachers couldn't be happier.  As Max and his friend Dallas watch their classmates transform into model citizens, Max wonders if their only hope of freedom lies in the unknown world beyond New Middletown's walls, where creativity might be a gift instead of a liability.

All Good Children is another in a long line of dystopian novels published in 2011.  It's interesting to see how today's YA authors bring in elements of classic dystopian/science fiction novels into their books, adding special twists to plot elements to make the story new.  As I read this one, I couldn't help but think of 1984 and The Stepford Wives.  Austen must have been aware of the strong similarities to those two books since she made direct reference to both in the course of the story.  Of course, most young readers haven't read these classic books, and I wonder how many of them realize the rich history of social commentary through dystopian novels.

Overall, I enjoyed All Good Children.  The story is well-paced and has some interesting twists and turns.  It's hard to tell who Max's allies and enemies are among the adults in the story, which adds to the level of suspense. The idea of mass-medicating children to make them compliant is abhorrent to me as a parent, but as a teacher I see so many kids on various behavioral meds, that I wonder if that future is really all that far away.

This book has definite teen-appeal for both boys and girls, and I look forward to sharing it with my students.

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