A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know this high-concept fantasy/scifi is classic dystopia, similar in both violence and romance to Graceling or The Hunger Games. Life in the prison world is no less cutthroat and dangerous than the political plots and assassinations of the "free" world, but it's grittier and of course more violent. Although there is more than one romance and no love scenes or depictions of sex, the themes of a depraved underworld and political use of children as pawns in the outside world are complex and make this book more suitable for older teens. Complex ethical and philosophical themes will encourage readers to ponder the idea of a perfect world, criminal justice, class systems, and individual freedom. The danger and immorality of the lower classes in the prison is shown to exist in the highest social levels also.
What's the story?
Seventeen-year-old Finn has always felt like an outsider -- but the prison called Incarceron is the only home he remembers, and nobody ever leaves it, let alone enters. Teenaged Claudia is the prison Warden's daughter, giving her high enough social status that she will marry soon and become the new Queen. Looking for escape from fates they never chose leads Finn and Claudia to each other in a desperate race through virtual worlds that are trying to keep them apart. Aided by unlikely friends and the wise men known as Sapienti, both risk death in their pursuit. The closer Finn and Claudia get to each other, the deeper and darker the puzzles become in this complex novel of a utopia gone horribly wrong.
Is it any good?
Fisher writes with the ethical undercurrents of authors Orson Scott Card or Kurt Vonnegut, the unpredictability of Arthur Clark, and the imagination of Nancy Farmer. The full integration of technology into this future society may intrigue teens but the young characters who are rebelling against their
socially assigned roles will be the hook that captures them. The author is masterful at creating worlds through her usage of descriptive phrasing and the narrative trades between Claudia and Finn. The sweeping scope of imagination and surprising plot twists will make this book as popular with adults as it will be with teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of banishing certain groups of people forever. Was it done to make life better for the banished, or the society who stayed behind?
What do you think went wrong with the original idea of creating a utopia that was locked away?
Finn has almost unwavering belief that he knew another life than that of Incarceron. Does he still believe at the end of the book?
Many characters are revealed to be quite different than we think they are. Which revelation was most surprising? Who do you think is hiding the most about themselves?
For kids who love fantasy and romance
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