For the Win

Common Sense Media says

Teen gamers vs. corporations; absorbing but violent sci-fi.





What parents need to know

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

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."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

References to some minor adult characters drinking.

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. 

Parents say

Kids say

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Cory Doctorow
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Tor Books
Publication date:May 11, 2010
Number of pages:480
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Read aloud:14
Read alone:14

This review of For the Win was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 17 years old Written byjuninhovlk July 6, 2010


What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 17 year old Written byAloha June 19, 2010
What other families should know
Too much consumerism
Great role models
Teen, 16 years old Written byJourdy288 September 1, 2010

Excellent book, feels quite real!

For The Win (or FTW) is Doctorow's second book for young people. The first was Little Brother (which I despised!). I began reading this book fearing it would be a repeat of last time. I'm happy to say that Doctorow, in this case, proved me wrong. I really enjoyed this book! The only let down for me was the language. While it wasn't as awful as Little Brother, some bad language is in this book, which I think really detracts from it. The violence may also be a concern. I do appreciate, however, that Doctorow didn't put it in a particularly glamorous or heroic light. Rather, he depicted it as something absolutely awful, through a harsh, realistic lens. Thus, it may be too intense for some younger children, it may also serve as a valuable tool for youth with a less accurate (i.e. Hollywood) view of violence. It was also quite educational. Doctorow provides lessons on finance in simple terms to understand that actually help advance the story for the reader by providing an explanation of what's happening, and why. For more info about the book and how I liked it, check out my blog at:
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Educational value
Great messages


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