Ender's Game Book Poster Image

Ender's Game



Boy genius trains to crush alien invasion in sci-fi classic.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

What parents need to know

Educational value

Perfect discussion book, even for reluctant readers. Families can talk about if the end always justifies the means, and also if games desensitize kids to violence and much more.

Positive messages

The story introduces the concept of the end justifying the means, themes of loyalty and friendship, ideas about what bravery means, and complex thoughts on politics. The sheer emotional impact of this gripping read means these concepts will stick with kids long after, though there are no simple answers.

Positive role models

Ender has a gift for combat -- he fights and kills -- even though he doesn't understand the stakes. He's incredibly intuitive, bright, curious, but also troubled by his conscious and tries desperately to make sense of his role as a soldier. Petra is a strong female character who is not sexualized or dumbed down in any way. Ender's brother Peter is a cruel bully with dangerous ideas. Other characters are a mix of "good" and "bad," plus several central characters who are ambiguous.


Violence is frequent and, in some cases, quite vicious, especially as some of it's between kids, some result in unintentional deaths. An older brother is particularly cruel to others, including the main character, and threatens to kill or injure the young brother. A few fights between kid soldiers results in serious injuries with blood. Many of the scenes during Battle School entail detailed descriptions of virtual battles. A twisted boy tortures squirrels to death by skinning them alive. Kids are led to commit genocide, albeit unknowingly.


Boys and girls are naked in dorms, though there's no sexual activity. There are two computer screen pranks briefly described, one in which an off-color message ("I love your butt. Let me kiss it.") is sent and attributed to someone who didn't send it, and one that displays a large, animated image of male genitals, which is not described in any detail.


Language includes lots of "hell," plus the occasional "ass" and the word "s--t" is used in one scene three times. Other teasing language and some occasional potty talk is sprinkled throughout.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Ender's Game is a gripping and emotional sci-fi novel that will appeal to older tweens and teens. The violence is at times quite brutal, as kids kill other kids and the main character's admired for his ruthlessly efficient violence, though he himself is disturbed by it. Some bullying by an older brother is intense and disturbing, and the conclusion to the story is shocking.

What's the story?

The Earth has been attacked twice by aliens called Formics, or more popularly, Buggers, and everyone is sure a third invasion is coming. So the military embarks on a crash program to breed the ultimate military genius to lead the fleet in a pre-emptive attack against the Formic homeworld. These kids are trained from age 6 in an off-world facility called Battle School, and their training consists mostly of games. Ender Wiggins may be the child they are looking for. Brilliant, compassionate, and tormented, he's better at the games than anyone has ever been. But how can they manipulate a compassionate child into wiping out an entire species, and at the same time give him the skills to do it effectively? The adults who run the school are literally out to save the world: They will stop at nothing to achieve their ends, and one small boy, or even a school full of kids, is nothing but a means to that end.

Is it any good?


Considered by some to be the best sci-fi novel ever written, ENDER’S GAME hits the trifecta: deeply emotional and character-driven, brilliantly intellectual, and exciting as all get out. This is the kind of book the phrase "page-turner" was invented to describe: Most people finish it in one sitting, unable to put it down.

But the images and ideas linger long after the last thrilling page is turned, making it a perfect discussion book, even for reluctant readers. Its view of politics in the Internet age is prescient, especially considering it was written decades ago, and as a treatise on ruthless education it's without peer. Though it wasn't written for children, it has been embraced by middle- and high-schoolers. The violence can be quite disturbing to parents, who might want to preview it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Battle School. In this book, kids are trained from age 6 in an off-world facility where their training consists mostly of games. How do these games train them? Do you see any implications here for our current world?

  • Ender's Game was originally published in 1985 and won the Nebula Award for best novel that year. Why is it so well regarded? Why does it appeal to readers today?

  • Do you see a conection between Ender's Game and the Hunger Games trilogy? How are they similar? How are they different?

Book details

Author:Orson Scott Card
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Misfits and underdogs, Space and aliens
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Tor Books
Publication date:October 2, 2005
Number of pages:357

This review of Ender's Game was written by

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


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

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

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

Top advice and articles

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, 14 years old Written bymatsuifan13 November 27, 2009

Great book but fairly violent.

This book was one of the greatest I have ever read. I love Orson Scott Card and this is the book that launched my love for his novels
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written byseifert_jamie April 9, 2008

Best Sci-Fi book ive read

My name is Jamie, I am seventeen years old and a junior in High School. I was motivated by my English teacher to start reading this book and throughout the book I was required to write notes, complete quizzes, and have class discussions which proves that I have a commendable understanding of the novel The things I liked about the novel is that it portrays emotions such as anger, love, and hate. Examples of this are the love between Ender and Valentine, the anger between Ender and his competitors, and the hate between Ender and his brother Peter. I also like how Card goes in to detail about the events happening such as war, violence, and competition for power. Some examples of this is the wars between the buggers and humans, the violence Ender has to go through against other boys, and the competition that the armies have against each other. I liked this because these emotions and events that occur in the book take place in our lives every day. I only disliked a few things throughout the story such as Ender and his siblings being most intelligent children and the things they did at such a young age. I also disliked how Ender was sent to battle school at the age of six, and the fact that he became a commander and the world was relying on him at such a young age is pretty bizarre. The pacing of the story was great, there was never a time that I wasn’t guessing what was going to happen next. Card used great foreshadowing to create suspense throughout the novel. I thought the character development was great especially for Ender because as a young boy he was very kind and loving but as he got older he developed evil and cruel characteristics like his brother which he hated. The sentence structure was mostly in third person perspective told by the narrator with the exception of the discussions at the beginning of each chapter. I feel a connection with this novel when Card displays many examples of competition because I am a very competitive person and this made me get into the book better. I liked some of the literary techniques that Card used throughout the novel. My favorite was the foreshadowing at the beginning of each chapter because it hinted that there was something exciting going to happen later in the chapter which made me want to keep reading. The foreshadowing also gave me a better understanding at the end of the chapter. People who enjoy science fiction would definitely love this book and even people that aren’t science fiction fans because the novel has a lot of action, drama, and suspense. I recommend the novel Ender’s Game for people of ages above thirteen and for people that enjoy genres such as action, suspense, thriller, and drama. The book does contain some profanity so I recommend a parent reading it before allowing their child to read it.
Teen, 15 years old Written byWingWolf July 2, 2013

Why Everyone Should Read Ender's Game

Ender's game is one of the best science fiction books I have ever read that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. This book is taught in many schools to children as young as eleven. Personally, my dad is a huge science fiction fan and gave this book for me to read when I was eight. I loved it, but I can see how some parents would be hesitant to give this book to young children. There is a lot of violence in this book, but Ender really grows as a character and I feel that the overall theme of this book is about compassion and humanity - it is much more philosophical than just an alien vs. human war. The language might also be an issue for some parents. I think Orson Scott Card used some profanities in order to illustrate the culture of the battle-school. The characters are kids trying to be tough soldiers, and it's natural that eventually the kids would develop a unique dialect of sorts. I also admire that Orson Scott Card can write children well. So many authors portray children as either miniature adults or some sort of mentally challenged sub-species of humans. But the characters in Ender's Game, while naturally gifted, are still children, but most importantly, Card depicts them as people. In the end, I think this book is universal - it is something that everyone should read. Even after 30+ years, this book is still amazing, and will undoubtedly be a classic for years to come. It's won the hugo and nebula award for best book, and is a must-read for any science fiction fan. That being said, know your kid before letting them read this book. I think middle-school through high-school are good ages to pick up Ender's Game. But any bright kid who loves reading, and likes books filled with action and adventure would love it.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much swearing