Surrender

Common Sense Media says

Lyrical, award-winning thriller is complex; read with teens.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Families who read this book together will enjoy discussing what they think actually happened, and what didn't. The vocabulary will push teen readers.

Positive messages

Readers will be struck by the hardships that Gabriel must deal with -- and how his brain decides to deal with them.

Positive role models

Readers will pity the tortured Gabriel, who eventually realizes he must stop Finnigan.

Violence

One of the narrators seems to be dying of a gruesome degenerative disease, which is described in some detail. Murder with a hatchet, arson, the shooting of a dog. Children are beaten with belts and sticks by parents. A child accidentally kills his disabled brother by putting him in an unused refrigerator.

Sex

Mild fantasies.

Language

One use of "s--t."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teen smoking, beer drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that one of the protagonists in this award-winning read is apparently dying of a gruesome degenerative disease, and as a child accidentally killed his disabled older brother -- and may have killed his parents as well. The other protagonist is an arsonist. There is some smoking and drinking.  The language and ideas are compelling -- but tricky for younger teens. Parents may want to read with their kids and discuss the book together.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In alternating chapters, as Anwell/Gabriel is dying, he and Finnigan tell their story. Anwell lives a restricted life with his frigid mother and controlling father. Even at a young age he harbors dark secrets: he accidentally killed his disabled older brother, possibly with his mother's complicity. When he meets a wild boy, Finnigan, who seems to live in the forest, he is enthralled. Finnigan seems to know all the secrets of their small town, including Anwell's, and they make a pact -- they will be mirror images of each other. Anwell will always be good, while Finnigan will be bad. Since Anwell will be an angel, Finnigan calls him Gabriel. Soon a series of arsons begins tearing the town apart, and only Gabriel knows who the arsonist is. Finnigan is fulfilling his part of the bargain, and the victims are those whom Gabriel doesn't like. His father leads a group of vigilantes to try to stop the arsonist, not knowing that his son is involved. But as they grow up, Gabriel, though fearful, begins to chafe under Finnigan's control, as well as his parents'.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This lyrical novel, a psychological thriller told in gorgeous prose poetry, has an ending worthy of M. Night Shyamalan, though considerably more confusing. That ending will have readers paging back through this bizarre story to try to figure out what was real, and what wasn't. And even then they won't find all the answers.

Tolerance for ambiguity, then, is one of the prerequisites for enjoying this book. The author has said she doesn't really write for children. There's not much that would be considered objectionable for teens, but it won't be to all of their tastes. At the same time, many adults will enjoy SURRENDER, and shouldn't miss it because it's being sold in the children's section -- with shimmering prose, a uniquely strange plot, and that surprising, confusing ending, this will be a joy to some and frustrating to others.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the audience for this book. The author has said she doesn't really write for children -- who do you think this book is for? Why do you think it was published as Young Adult rather than for adults? 

  • This book won a Printz honor book from the American Library Association. Why do you think it was singled out for an award? Does it make a difference to you? Have you read any other of the Printz award winners?

Book details

Author:Sonya Hartnett
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:March 1, 2006
Number of pages:248
Publisher's recommended age(s):14
Read aloud:13
Read alone:13

This review of Surrender was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byImBored25 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

A Must Read

This is the best book I have ever read. The end is incredible. The violence is a little bad. Like when a baby gets stuck in a refrigerator. Or when 2 parents were murdered by a hatchet. Anyway, a must read for kids 13 and up

Teen, 14 years old Written byJesse LaDuc June 8, 2011
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

A Really Good Book

The psycological thriller Surrender by Sonya Hartnett is very entertaining. The protagonist, Anwell, is dying at the age of 20. He remembers his short life and all the humiliation and mistakes he's made. When young Anwell meets a dirty boy named Finnegan on a hot, boring day, they make a pact. Anwell must only do good things from now on, after accidentally killing his brother, and so calls him Gabriel after an angel. Finnegan can do bad things and becomes an arsonist, punishing people who did bad things to Gabriel and making a game out of leaving the town in terror. Gabriel realizes how dangerous Finnegan is and wants to get rid of him, but is afraid of what Finnegan will do. I thought it was interesting how Finnegan thought he should be Gabriel's only friend. He acts like he owns everything and doesn't care about what the consequences might be, while on the other hand, Gabriel just wants to live a normal life. I felt bad for Gabriel because both his parents seclude him from other people. This makes Gabriel's only friends Finnegan and his dog, Surrender. I also feel bad for how Gabriel had to keep the secret that after the pact was made, Finnegan becomes an arsonist, teasing and terrorizing the town with fire. This novel was very good and I would recommend it to someone who likes suspense. The violence in the novel was a little frightening, but it kept you on the edge of your seat and left you feeling content at the end.

What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Parent of a 13 year old Written bysurrender_fan1 June 30, 2010
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Amazing Book

I loved this book and i feel that it teaches teenagers many importaint life lessons on love friendship and death.Although partially gruesome, i believe that teens will cherish this book for years to come,as did my 13 year old son.Thank you Sonya Hartnett for writing this masterpiece.

What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Top Kids' Movies: An Essential Guide for Families