Evil Genius

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Evil Genius Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Complex tale of a criminal prodigy is engrossing but dark.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

This is fun read that will ultimately leave readers with some bigger questions -- even thinking about when kids become responsible for their own actions. Families might have fun thinking about other criminal protagonists and comparing them to Cadel.

Positive Messages

This is a book about a child prodigy who, after being trained as a criminal, is able to develop empathy and turn himself around.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cadel is in training to become a criminal, but he eventually develops empathy and becomes suspicious of both his father's and his psychologist's real motives.


Many deaths, a suicide, a variety of injuries, fighting, guns, bombs, but nothing described.


Sexual references, someone is called an "underwear sniffer," kissing.


A bit of moderate swearing: "bitch", "s--t," etc.


Lean Cuisine, Game Boys.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking, smoking, a reference to marijuana.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a entertaining book about a child prodigy in training to be a master criminal, the first book in a series of three. Like Artemis Fowl, it has a child criminal genius, codes, and all that -- and while it has some fun details, it's actually a far darker, more complex, multilayered thriller. Cadel is encouraged and manipulated to commit crimes and engage in other bad behavior, and there's a lot of violence, though much of it isn't described in detail. In the end, Cadel eventually develops empathy and becomes suspicious of both his father's and his psychologist's real motives.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6, 9, and 11-year-old Written byMJB in TC November 19, 2010

A good read for me, NOT OK for under 16

No Way is this appropriate for 12 a year old. If you think the "bit of swearing' in this book is OK for your 12-15 year old, you need higher standard... Continue reading
Parent of a 14-year-old Written byfdsgsdfgfdggfdf... September 28, 2010
love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
the best book
summary:Cadel Piggot, a boy genius, and his adoptive parents arrive at the psychology office of Thaddeus Roth aft... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byHugeReader123 November 23, 2011

Okay Book.

1st off, there's a bit of cussing, a LOT of innuendo, such as: This girl and her boyfriend come back from a party with his shirt un zipped and she has a ro... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 2, 2019

Great book, but not for very young audiences.

This is a long-winded story of pain, hatred, manipulation and sabotage. It has a complex and unpredictable plot, and what happens is almost always different fro... Continue reading

What's the story?

At the age of 7, brilliant foster child Cadel Piggot is taken to psychologist Thaddeus Roth, at the suggestion of the police who arrested Cadel for computer hacking. But Dr. Roth seems to encourage Cadel in his antisocial behavior, talking him into figuring out traffic and train systems so that he can disrupt them. Then Dr. Roth reveals that he is really employed by Cadel's father, incarcerated criminal genius Dr. Phineas Darkkon, and arranges conversations between father and son. Finally they create an entire school, The Axis Institute, which secretly teaches advanced criminal skills: forgery, poisoning, embezzlement, disguise, infiltration, and lots more. But nothing is as it seems. As Cadel becomes friendly with a young math genius, students and teachers begin to die, and Cadel becomes suspicious of both his father's and his psychologist's real motives.

Is it any good?

At first glance, this may seem like another Artemis Fowl -- child criminal genius, codes, and all that -- but it's actually a far darker, more complex, multilayered story. It lacks the B-movie dialogue, flat characters, fantasy element, wicked humor, and breakneck pacing that were Fowl's trademarks. Instead, it has a series of twists and turns, each of which leads deeper into the web of lies that has been Cadel's entire life.

In some ways this engrossing and exciting novel is a critique of the ways gifted children are parented and taught -- because they are brilliant, adults tend to expect them to be adult in every way long before they are ready. As in King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak, the hero is a child who takes on an adult role without the necessary understanding of the world, with disastrous consequences he can't understand. This is one of those books that readers will race through and enjoy, then go back to really think about it. Even when it's finished, it's hard to put aside.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the word "evil" in the book's title. Is the protagonist actually evil? Can you think of other books that focus on criminal characters? What's fun about reading their stories? Do you always expect them to change their ways? Can you think of any who don't?

  • This book is the first installment in a series of three books. Did you know that when you picked the book up? Is it more fun to read a book knowing that the story continues in future installments? Why do you think writers might be interested in penning a series? Why might a publisher be interested in printing one?

Book details

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