Brave New World

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Brave New World Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Satire of ultimate consumerist society still packs punch.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 12 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Brave New World is an extremely influential dystopian science-fiction novel that presents both a richly imagined future and a sharp critique of trends prevalent at the time of its publication that are still relevant today.

Positive Messages

By showing the hollowness of lives devoted to consumerism, promiscuity, and empty pleasure, Huxley tacitly endorses community, literacy, family, service, faithfulness, and reverence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

John, also known as "the Savage," comes as close to a sympathetic character as this novel permits. It is his belief that there is more to life than empty sex, emotion-numbing drugs, and meaningless pastimes. A white boy raised on an Indian reservation, he feels like an outcast among the Native Americans, only to be overwhelmed by the promiscuous consumer culture promoted by the World State.

Violence

Science seems to have eliminated most violent tendencies in the inhabitants of Central London. On the Indian reservation, however, life is far harsher and physically punishing. John's mother is abused by her lover, by other men, and by other women in the camp. There are also scenes of self-flagellation. The end of the novel features a violent orgy and a suicide, both of which are more implied than directly dramatized.

Sex

Brave New World is permeated by sex, although there are no explicit descriptions of sexual acts. Promiscuous sex is the norm, and characters routinely speak of "having" each other. Young children are encouraged to engage in sex play with their peers. Orgies are not unusual. Men chew sex-hormone gum. Women carry elaborate contraception kits. Having grown up on the reservation in New Mexico, John seeks a romantic relationship in Central London but cannot bear the gulf between his idealistic notions and his own physical urges.

Language

African Americans are referred to as "Negroes" and Native Americans as "savages," terms not unusual at the time of the novel's publication. Because the inhabitants of Central London regard Henry Ford as a secular prophet, they use his surname as a mild expletive. Also, the word "mother" is practically an obsenity to a populace conceived and decanted from bottles.

Consumerism

The novel is set in a society given completely over to pleasure and consumerism. There are fictional products mentioned, but nothing that matches one-to-one with real-world items. The Ford brand is presented as a quasi-religion, but it's not meant to be taken seriously.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In Brave New World, "soma" is the drug of choice for nearly everyone. It seems to be a tranquilizer with hallucinatory effects. It is addicitive, and prolonged use inevitably leads to physical deterioration. On the Indian reservation, mescal is drunk by the residents, and peyote is used during tribal initiations. A major character's mother succumbs to the slow deterioration brought on by soma.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World is one of the most famous dystopian satires in the English language. Set in a society given completely over to pleasure and consumerism, it is both humorous and chilling, and ultimately raises questions about what makes us human. Although there are no explicit descriptions of sexual acts, promiscuous sex is the norm, and there is a violent orgy. There is also a suicide. Citizens of the World State take a tranquilizing, hallucinatory drug called soma, and on an Indian reservation, residents drink mescal and use peyote during tribal initiations.

Wondering if Brave New World is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymeinhare October 3, 2013

Everything in Context

I've read some of these reviews, and I think there needs to be some context here. The sexual content in the book is exaggerated but not explicit. It... Continue reading
Adult Written byTimTheTVGuy May 10, 2013

A little overrated.

The romance in this book was gross. Because it was too much romance, and it made me feel uncomfortable. Other than that, the book is actually decent.
Kid, 10 years old May 13, 2020

Intriguing

An amazing book, I'm hooked. I haven't completely finished, and the start is a little slow moving, but that is to be expected from all classics.

Ther... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byGlader A5 November 1, 2019

Interesting...

I love reading Dystopias! This book was really interesting. I read it when I was 13. It really depends on how mature you are, a mature 13 year old or a 14 yea... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the far future, humanity has become almost completely dissociated from the process of reproduction. Fetuses are developed in bottles, cloned and treated with chemicals to produce infants that will fit within rigidly structured caste systems. Marriage and motherhood are unheard of. Citizens do their jobs and then relax by indulging in promiscuous sex, elaborate games, and doses of tranquilizing, hallucinatory \"soma.\" When John, a \"savage\" from an Indian reservation in what was once New Mexico, is brought to Central London, he must reconcile his beliefs with those of a bewildering, responsibility-free society.

Is it any good?

Along with George Orwell's 1984, this chilling novel is one of the most famous dystopian science-fiction novels in the English language. Aldous Huxley envisions a future where a person's destiny is determined through in vitro fertilization and prenatal treatments, leading to adulthoods ruled by consumerism and aimless sex. Although originally a critique of social trends in the 1930s, the novel is still funny, disturbing, and relevant for today's readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how well author Aldous Huxley predicted the future when he wrote Brave New World in 1932. Was he only imagining the future, or was he also commenting upon trends at the time of the novel's publication?

  • Why do you think Henry Ford is viewed as a kind of prophet by the citizens of the World State? What satirical point was Huxley trying to make with this choice?

  • Why do you think Huxley has John quote Shakespeare so often in the novel? And why do you think Huxley chose to quote Shakespeare's play The Tempest in the book's title?

  • Why do you think Brave New World continues to be read and taught in high school and college literature courses?

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love science fiction and dystopian novels

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate