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All Good Children

All Good Children

4.0 2
by Catherine Austen

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This best-selling book is now available in paperback.

It's the middle of the twenty-first century and the elite children of New Middletown are lined up to receive a treatment that turns them into obedient, well-mannered citizens. Maxwell Connors, a fifteen-year-old prankster, misfit and graffiti artist, observes the changes with growing concern, especially when his


This best-selling book is now available in paperback.

It's the middle of the twenty-first century and the elite children of New Middletown are lined up to receive a treatment that turns them into obedient, well-mannered citizens. Maxwell Connors, a fifteen-year-old prankster, misfit and graffiti artist, observes the changes with growing concern, especially when his younger sister, Ally, is targeted. Max and his best friend, Dallas, escape the treatment, but must pretend to be "zombies" while they watch their freedoms and hopes decay. When Max's family decides to take Dallas with them into the unknown world beyond New Middletown's borders, Max's creativity becomes an unexpected bonus rather than a liability.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Austen’s first novel for teens wears its influences proudly—characters watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Stepford Wives—while delivering an entertaining and creepy story. In this dystopian future, the company town of New Middletown is a rare safe area, a walled community built by Chemrose Inter-national to support its huge geriatric home business. Rights have been stripped away across the country, and in New Middletown, students are ordered to take a “vaccination” that makes them docile and eager to follow all rules. Rebellious 15-year-old artist Max and his friend Dallas avoid the first dose (thanks to Max’s mother, a nurse opposed to the program), but they know that their attempts to fool everyone will eventually be detected. Austen (Walking Backward) keeps the story moving with a well-rounded supporting cast (including Max’s younger sister; his quirky hacker friend; Xavier; and a gym coach also against the treatments), and she adds enough detail to her world to make the plot believable. Few will be surprised by the ending (or most of the plot points), but the social commentary and character development make it a worthwhile journey. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The book's stark view of humanity is buoyed by Max's witty commentary and his warm relationships with both his best friend and his little sister...Given Max's knack for getting out of a tight spot, [the book offers] an organic and satisfying conclusion to a harrowing tale."
YA Book Shelf blog
"With its mixture of humor, foreboding, and great characters, All Good Children is a book that you won't regret picking up."
YALSA YA Galley Teen Review
"A wonderful, awe-inspiring book that I really just could not stop reading."
Amy's Marathon of Books
"Sharply written...A complex piece of writing that explores the removal of rights from a society, causing them to lose the most precious thing of all, the innocence and joy of childhood and growing up. Such a serious topic is injected with wonderful moments of humour...All Good Children should be considered a classic dystopian read."
Brass Knuckle Book Reviews
"Max, the main character, is one of the most real teenage characters I can remember reading. He is angry and smart and artistic...Overall [the book] is a celebration of freedom and creativity. A dark but enjoyable read. Funny and disturbing at the same time! Buy it!"
Children's Literature - Janice DeLong
Fifteen-year-old Maxwell Conners has a way of making himself known, whether through his daredevil pranks, his wise-cracking comments, his laudable athletic prowess, or through his superior artistic talent. Since the death of his father in an influenza epidemic, the home life and social status of the Conners family have been greatly altered. Mrs. Conners supports her son and her small daughter, Alexandra, with her meager salary as a nurse, wielding her brand of tough love as the single parent. Though nine years separate Max and Ally, they share deep affection and so when Ally begins to tell Max that the children in her first grade class are all acting like they are asleep, Max decides to investigate other grades to see if the same malady exists. When one of his escapades lands the young athlete in detention with a punishment of helping the middle school coach with the football team, his fears are confirmed. Some behavior altering source has been administered to all of the eighth graders. Max attacks the problem as he often does, by painting scenes of what is happening, with the one word, "withstand" written large. What follows is both hair-raising and though-provoking. The wisdom of this impulsive teen is inspiring; the courage of his mother is impressive. The page-turning novel is a rush to judgment with a most surprising and rewarding climax. This title is highly recommended for high school libraries. As a first novel, Austen is to be commended for her imaginative dystopian setting that, in some aspects, seems all too possible in the not so distant future. Reviewer: Janice DeLong
School Library Journal
Gr 8–11—Maxwell Connors lives in the planned community of New Middletown with his mother and younger sister, Ally. It's an oasis in a bleak world of extreme temperatures, oil scarcities, frequent terrorist attacks, and genetically engineered "ultimate" children. Max, an aspiring artist, entertains himself with football, pranks, and the odd act of graffiti. He gradually notices a change in the local children; they have become zombielike in their obedience. Their complacent behavior is linked to the flu shot that everyone except Max and his best friend receives at school (Max's mother, a nurse, fakes the injections). The teen must keep up a charade of conformity, which adds a touch of humor to this otherwise grim novel. Ally is inoculated against her mother's wishes, which ratchets up the urgency for the family's escape to Canada. These final chapters are the book's strongest in terms of suspense and human drama. For example, they pass through Freaktown, where Max's favorite reality show is set, and Max sees these humans in a new light. A bit more exposition would have helped orient readers to Max's world, but this potential problem may actually help some reluctant readers slip right into the action. Repeated use of the word "faggot" accompanies a troubling vein of homophobia throughout. This middling dystopian effort would make a serviceable alternative for readers put off by the length of more substantial futuristic reads such as Neal Shusterman's Unwind (2007) or Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin (2010, both S & S).—Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA
Kirkus Reviews

A corporate-controlled city decides to optimize its schools' efficiency by adjusting students' temperaments.

Max Connors and his family live in New Middletown, a city that puts the gate in gated community. Only the most fortunate live in one of Chemrose International's six cities, protected from the crime, terrorism and poverty of the world at large. But the socioeconomically isolated enclave populated by a mix of natural and genetically selected children has its share of troublemakers, like Max. A bundle of contradictions, Max is a sensitive artist, a caring older brother and a vandal who fights at school while maintaining impressive grades. And there is a lot of pressure to stay academically successful—those who don't keep up in academic school get sent to trade school as throwaways. Max worries that his younger sister, Ally, won't be able to keep up with her classmates. His anxiety increases when students start acting like perfectly obedient zombies after receiving a vaccine that's being deployed one grade at a time. Austen uses Max as a prism in this novel of ideas. As one of the few students able to secretly avoid the treatment, he demonstrates a remarkable and situational moral compass by becoming the only person trying to fight the program itself. While he dabbles in juvenile delinquency on a personal level, when Max sees a larger picture he confronts it, standing up for what he thinks is right despite differing amounts of personal risk. Just trying to keep ownership of his mind, Max's actions send ripples of consequences farther than he could possibly imagine.

A shaded morality tale about individuality. (Dystopia. 12 & up)

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"The book's stark view of humanity is buoyed by Max's witty commentary and his warm relationships with both his best friend and his little sister...Given Max's knack for getting out of a tight spot, [the book offers] an organic and satisfying conclusion to a harrowing tale."
Escape Through the Pages blog
"Delivered...heart-pounding intensity that left me turning the pages long into the early morning when I should have been sleeping. The characters in All Good Children are amazingly portrayed...One of the reasons this book impacts so hard is because of how attached you get to the characters. All the tension and anxiety bleeds through the pages and it's impossible not to cringe and laugh and want to cry."
Niles Daily Star
"An imaginative work of dystopian fiction...Austen's novel is engrossing and deeply funny, and simultaneously important and frightening."
The Horn Book Guide
"The strengths of this dystopian novel include a creepy premise and Max's strong first-person narrative voice pointing out wry humour in the most dire of situations."
Canadian Children's Book News
"The world that Austen has built is terrifying and chillingly easy to imagine, and she challenges her readers to think about issues of race, social class, gender and freedom."
School Library Connection
"Austen creates a believably scary dystopian society that is not too far removed from out own. Readers will find this novel a chilling introduction to the idea of government-initiated mind and behavior control, and they will cheer at Max's resistance, which is manifested not only in his attitude but also in his artwork."
CanLit for Little Canadians blog
"The plot keeps the reader on edge...Skillfully, Catherine Austen ensures that Max is seen as a smart aleck kid who has moments of brilliance and compassion, helping the readers clarify their own perspectives on this new world and its way of doing things."
Tri State YA Book Review Committee
"Austen's conflicts will resound with younger readers and her character development and theme will resound with older readers...Her treatment of the topic is new, scary and inspirational."
Tim Wynne-Jones
"I love this book! It's important and riveting. And somehow, miraculously, it manages to be deeply scary and funny at the same time."
The Epitome blog
"This book describes the thoughts and feelings of a 15 year old boy in a very real way...Austen shows great power in her research of teenage psychology...Another amazing factor is the integration of racial backgrounds. There are very few minority main characters in the YA genre and there need to be more...Congrats to Austen on a book well done!"
Quill & Quire
"Imaginative and affecting...A smart, polished novel, peopled with realistic characters in a well-developed, futuristic world...The books builds on cultural familiarity, resulting in an emotionally engaging work."
Montreal Review of Books
"[If] you're looking for a great read for yourself or a teenager you know, Catherine Austen's novel All Good Children is an excellent choice...Austen provides many nuanced details of life in the near future, from facts on transportation and garbage disposal to the devastating effects of global warming. Strong characterization as well as a thrilling and horrifyingly plausible plot all combine to make All Good Children a wonderful read."
The Musings of a Book Addict blog
"I would recommend this book to all dystopian lovers. I think this could hold its own in a competition with some of the most popular dystopian novels today."
"Austen writes with cinematic definition, driving the action with taut dialogue and unremitting menace. By alternating recognizable adolescent struggles with dystopian horrors, she makes the threat of totalitarian mind control all the more visceral...Action-packed, terrifying, and believable, this entertaining novel will provoke important discussions about subservience, resistance, and individual freedom."
Resource Links
"In its use of race, gender, social class and technology, All Good Children can stand with the best of the [dystopian] genre."
January Magazine blog
"Anyone who enjoys being taken out of their every day should find lots to recommend about All Good Children."
The Next Best Book blog
"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...This book has definite teen-appeal for both boys and girls."

Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)
650L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Living with hope is like rubbing up against a cheese grater. It keeps taking slices off you until there's so little left you just crumble.

Meet the Author

Catherine Austen worked in the conservation movement before becoming a freelance writer. She lives in Quebec with her husband, Geoff, and their children.Her novels with Orca include Walking Backward and All Good Children. For more information, visit www.catherineausten.com.

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All Good Children 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
Max, Ally and his mother live in a city called Middleton. Middleton is one of the few places left in the US with a decent school system, safe streets, healthy people, and little crime. But the administrators of Middleton think it could be even better. What if they found a way to get rid of misbehavior in children. Now, we're not talking about just the big ones like arson and fighting, but even the little ones, like giggling in class and expressing an opinion. As this is slowly taking effect on the children of all ages, few seem to speak out against it. Max's mother is one of those few and they begin to hatch a plan to escape from the city. While, our main character is Max, I fell in love with his little sister Ally. Not the brightest in the bunch, she makes up for it in pure personality. Max, a fantastic graffiti artist, seems to be going through a fairly typical teenage angst stage that didn't seem overly original. The supporting characters tended to remain fairly flat throughout the book until they were effected by the new behavior "cure". Then they just turned into what Max calls zombies....a very appropriate name. The plot centers around Max and his family and a few of his friends, especially his best friend Dallas, and their lives as they make plans to escape without being zombified. The plan they hatch is intricate and simple at the same time and keeps the story moving as we watch the town slowly become more and more suspicious of the family. There were times when the story seemed to drag a little, but perhaps that was done on purpose to show you how hard it was for the family to make it through. As a concept the story was amazing. 3.5/5
Lawral More than 1 year ago
All Good Children is a great book. The world that Austen has created really is a whole lot like ours could be in, oh, 50 years (or less). The majority of the population is desperately poor and living in cars they cannot afford to fuel. The (what we now call) middle class minority works in some capacity with the booming elder care industry. Everyone has an RIG that connects them constantly to entertainment, work, communication, whatever (ie, it's what iPad aspires to be). A chemical spill has created a whole region's worth of people born with physical deformities...that compete on a reality TV show. The cities are dangerous places, and everyone has moved to gated communities (actual communities rather than housing developments) for their own safety. That they've given up a whole host of civil liberties in exchange for that safety bothers almost none of them. They even give up the right to know what vaccinations are being administered in their children's schools and why their children suddenly have no discernible personalities. It's cool though, because they're just so darn well-behaved. Max is not well-behaved. He never has been, and if he has anything to do with it, he never will be. He, along with his best friend Dallas, struggle to maintain their own thoughts and personalities while pretending to be perfectly "good children." Their struggle was awful, but their friendship was great. The fact that Max's mom is Black and his father was white is not a constant issue, but it is an important one. In their own community, it is a non-issue (or it's supposed to be), but outside is another story. Without the visual aid of their father, Max's mom is always eyed with suspicion while traveling with Max and his sister Ally. Though it is published by Orca, it is not technically a hi-lo (high interest, low reading level). It's appropriate in both areas of measurement for the 12 and up set. It is, however, about a couple high school seniors and could be used as reading material for the same. I think it will be great for reluctant readers and dystopian lovers alike. Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program