For the Win

Book review by
Debra Bogart, Common Sense Media
For the Win Book Poster Image
Teen gamers vs. corporations; absorbing but violent sci-fi.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Includes explanations of world economic mechanisms and market influences, affects of unionzation, global market influence, etc. Plus there are realistic depictions of life in Asian countries.

Positive Messages

Strong message of idealism and activism for the social good. Teen gamers and young workers risk their jobs and later their lives for a common goal of unionization. Trust develops among virtual communities with common enemies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The leaders of the revolutionary movement are young, mostly teens, extremely bright, idealistic, loyal, and physically brave. Most of these young leaders are female and superior at gaming, strategy, leadership, and even fighting. All are also dedicated to helping their families. The idea of social justice is compellingly presented.


High level of realistic violence as teens and young adults lead a worker's revolt against exploitive bosses who are willing to maim and murder to keep control of their industry. Graphic descriptions of teens and a child being murdered; a main character is burned to death; Mala is attacked in an attempted rape; a manager in a sweat shop shoots an employee and is then "executed" by the other workers.


References to young female workers being exploited and raped by their bosses; a romance develops between Jiana and Lu; no love scenes.


Minor use of "hell," "s--t," "damn," "Christ," and "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to some minor adult characters drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this science-fiction version of a not so distant future contains heavy graphic violence. Children are forced into sweatshops and are recruited and united online, but form real-world armies that attack and fight back, killing as necessary in an exciting quest for social justice. The depictions of contemporary life in the poor parts of China and India may shock teen readers who are not aware that similar poverty exists in this country. Parents could read this book to gain an understanding of the attractions that video gaming has for kids, the friendships built in the online communities, the interdependence and loyalties, and the inherent rewards built into the games that keep them playing. The global appeal and the merger of the virtual and real world experiences that many kids experience also comes to life here. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2 and 7-year-old Written byjandrewworld March 29, 2011

Learning the Economy through video games

Ever wanted to have your child understand why there is a labor movement? How about how the value of a product can be artificially inflated? Or even how a child... Continue reading
Parent of a 17-year-old Written byAloha June 19, 2010
Teen, 13 years old Written byTrash Queen October 29, 2020

It's good so far.

I really like it so far. Some people say it's really difficult, but as a thirteen year old I'd say it's just moderately challenging. The story is... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byVolzaac May 10, 2017

Intriguing, inspiring , but a hard read

This is a great book by Cory Doctorow. I have read too many books to count and this is by far one of my top 3. This is a book about a group of teens from around... Continue reading

What's the story?

Mala is a 15-year-old gamer in India, Matthew has become his own boss in China through his gaming skills, and 16-year-old Leonard is facing an intervention in California because his parents believe he is addicted to gaming. They have many things in common even though they have never met: they are all connected through the multiple player online games they love, each of them is brilliant, and each has the idealistic conviction of the young -- that life should be good, and fair. For all. Before they know it, they've been recruited to use their gifts for a greater good. The lines are blurred between real and virtual worlds as gold farmers and factory girls alike are joining the cause, masterminded by the enigmatic Big Sister Nor, hiding somewhere beyond the Internet. Can they make the Industrial Workers of the World Wide Web a reality? The corporate world will do anything to stop them, and Mala, Matthew, and Leonard find themselves and their new friends caught up in a revolution. Murder and intrigue mean that only some of them will survive.

Is it any good?

Fast-paced with brilliant and likable characters from all over the globe, even non-gamers will fall into this idealistic and multilayered tale of a brave new world. Readers who enjoyed Little Brother will enjoy this new geek revolution, if they don't find it overly long. Doctorow has a tendency to speak directly to the reader in brief lectures to explain Ponzi schemes or economic theories, which may annoy many of his readers who undoubtedly already understand such concepts.

But his strong female characters and sympathetic boys like Leonard and Lu make it all worthwhile for anyone who has ever played a multiuser video game and felt the thrill of being one part of a larger whole, or been inspired by the possibilities offered by the new world technology.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether video games are addicting. How would one know they were spending too much time online? Do you think Leonard was addicted?

  • There is some mention of the dangers lurking online in multiuser games. What kinds of rules keep kids safe online and in those games?

  • Life for the teens in India and China is very different in this book than it is for most teens in this country. Are there teens in the U.S. that are living in similar circumstances to Mala and Matthew, for example?

  • What were some of the similarities you noticed in the family life depicted?

  • Was Leonard right to lie to his mother and to travel illegally to China? Does the end justify the means? Would your parents be proud of you if you did something like that? Can you think of real heroes from history that were teens?

Book details

Our editors recommend

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