Reviews for All Good Children

Booklist Reviews 2011 November #2
Max lives in a working-class subdivision in the rust belt of the not-too-distant future. Increasingly heightened security is a regular inconvenience, but Max is too focused on friends and football and Pepper Cassidy to perceive any real interference. Then all of the students in the country are subjected to a mandatory series of psychotropic inoculations. Max conspires to escape the forced compliance and begins to realize just how little freedom his fellow citizens have left, and his contempt for authority and fierce devotion to his family inspire both frustration and commitment. 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. Each of the book's three parts begins with a nineteenth-century rhyme that reflects society's insistence on childhood obedience, drawing a plausible through line from our history to the book's chilling premise. Action packed, terrifying, and believable, this entertaining novel will provoke important discussions about subservience, resistance, and individual freedom. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
A witty, artistic teenage boy named Max resists the government of his city when he notices his fellow students becoming docile and obedient. The strengths of this dystopian novel include a creepy premise and Max's strong first-person narrative voice pointing out wry humor in the most dire of situations.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 September #2

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)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 September #3

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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 December

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

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