Evil Genius Book Poster Image

Evil Genius



Complex tale of a criminal prodigy is engrossing but dark.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

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

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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Catherine Jinks
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Harcourt Brace
Publication date:April 26, 2007
Number of pages:486
Publisher's recommended age(s):12

This review of Evil Genius 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

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 standards. I enjoyed the book.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008
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 rose in her hair. Cadel looks at adult magazines, he thinks it's a good idea to have sex, just so he can be more experienced. The girl he likes thinks he's gay. Twins say that they want to take Cadel up to their room but can't cause he's off limits. The narrator says that the twins have very distinct eyes and breasts. One boy calls the twins a sl-t, b--ch, and so on. As for the violence, fingers are blown off, faces cut, heads cracked open, suicide, etc. The language consists of fifty uses of: p-ss off, da-m, god-amn, they use Jesus's name as a cuss word a lot. Cadel dresses up like a girl on several occasions, using make up and everything. not really any posotive messages. Cadel is told to never admit to anything, always lie, no matter who or what gets hurt. He makes the SAT tests fail everybody, and all of them are extremely depressed. I think one person commits suicide because they are so stressed over the topic. But besides that, it's an okay book. :P
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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