Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Grade: 8 to 12
- Reading age: 12 to 18
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.
About the author
Catherine Austen was raised in Kingston, Ontario, the youngest of five children. She studied political science at Queen's University and environmental studies at York University. While procrastinating in the face of exams, she wrote several short stories for literary journals. She worked through the 1990s in Canada's conservation movement, campaigning for federal endangered species legislation. In 2000, Catherine quit office life to raise her children and work as a freelance writer for environmental organizations and First Nations. While procrastinating in the face of deadlines, she began writing children's fiction. Catherine writes from her home in Quebec, which she shares with her husband, Geoff, and their children, Sawyer and Daimon.
- Short-listed, Stellar Award nominee
- Short-listed, YALSA Best Fiction for YA
- Short-listed, White Pine Award nominee
- Winner, Sunburst Award
- Winner, CLA Young Adult Book Award
- Commended, CCBC Best Books starred selection
- Short-listed, YALSA Teens' Top Ten nominee
- Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
- Commended, Resource Links "The Year's Best"
"In its use of race, gender, social class and technology, All Good Children can stand with the best of the [dystopian] genre."
"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."
Tri State YA Book Review Committee
"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."
The Musings of a Book Addict blog
"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."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"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."
Quill & Quire
"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."
The Next Best Book blog
"Austen uses Max as a prism in this novel of ideas...A shaded morality tale about individuality."
"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!"
The Epitome blog
"An imaginative work of dystopian fiction...Austen's novel is engrossing and deeply funny, and simultaneously important and frightening."
Niles Daily Star
"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."
Escape Through the Pages blog
"[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."
Montreal Review of Books
"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."
The Horn Book Guide
"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. "
CanLit for Little Canadians blog
"A wonderful, awe-inspiring book that I really just could not stop reading."
YALSA YA Galley Teen Review
"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."
Amy's Marathon of Books
"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."
School Library Connection
"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."
Canadian Children's Book News
"Anyone who enjoys being taken out of their every day should find lots to recommend about All Good Children."
January Magazine blog
"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!"
Brass Knuckle Book Reviews
"I love this book! It's important and riveting. And somehow, miraculously, it manages to be deeply scary and funny at the same time."
"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."
"With its mixture of humor, foreboding, and great characters, All Good Children is a book that you won't regret picking up."
YA Book Shelf blog
"An entertaining and creepy story...Austen keeps the story moving with a well-rounded supporting cast...and she adds enough detail to her world to make the plot believable...The social commentary and character development make it a worthwhile journey."
All Good ChildrenIt’s the middle of the 21st century, and the elite children of New Middletown are about to receive a treatment that will turn them into obedient children and perfect citizens. Seventeen-year-old Max, a prankster, graffiti artist and general misfit, observes the changes with growing discomfort — especially when his little sister, Ally, is targeted. Max and his best friend, Dallas, manage to avoid the treatment but must be careful to act like zombies and keep up the pretense in front of others. When Max’s family decides to escape to the border and take Dallas with them, his creativity becomes a bonus instead of a liability.
In this chilling new dystopian novel by Quebec author Catherine Austen, readers are introduced to a world that seems frighteningly real. Built by Chemrose International to support a geriatric rest home with 32,000 beds, the town is completely controlled by the corporation and monitored by cameras that keep its citizens in line. The children are genetically engineered, but even here, the wealthy have the advantage. Those with means can keep mixing cocktails until they achieve the perfect combination, while those who aren’t wealthy get fewer choices.
Max and Dallas are realistic and likeable, and provide interesting contrast to each other. Max is intelligent and creative, but has a rebellious streak and enjoys pushing the limits. Dallas is a super teen. He is bright, athletic and popular but, unlike Max, he’s less willing to take risks and is more subtle in how much he will push.
The writing is excellent, the story is fast-paced and believable, and the author does an excellent job of balancing the horror of the environment with normal teen angst. It’s also a refreshing change to have central male characters with so much depth. Poised for a possible sequel, this highly enjoyable read will be devoured by both tween and teen readers.
Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2012. Volume 35 No. 1.
All Good ChildrenMaxwell Connors is a quick-witted graffiti artist who is more observant than the average New Middletown teenager. Max and his friend Dallas watch as their classmates turn into frighteningly obedient model citizens and wonder if their only hope of freedom lies in the unknown world beyond the town walls. Maybe there creativity might be seen as a gift!
Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Spring, 2012.
Well-Developed Dystopian YAInteresting, detailed and well-developed dystopian exploration of the future of education and corporate trends by way of a smart, artistic and angry teen.
While the narrative perspective was well maintained and it didn't get preachy, there's a clear message of vigilance against current trends, and like a lot of dystopian fiction, it extrapolates current trends to an alarming place. Not an overt rebellion story a la Hunger Games or Divergent, but more of a growing awareness and opting out/escaping adverse situations. The use of art as a sort of silent protest and rallying force against oppression was interesting.
Overall a fast read that leaned more toward the disturbing and realistic portrayal of intelligent science fiction than the more exciting and thriller-paced tone of some dystopian fiction.