Book review by
Debra Bogart, Common Sense Media
Incarceron Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Dystopian bestseller is full of plot twists, complex themes.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The ethical questions raised could lead to consideration of topics such as justice, social equality, and philosophy of life.

Positive Messages

The main characters struggle to secure the futures they want instead of what society has decided for them. Inside the prison loyalty is looked upon as a survival requirement. Perseverance is greatly rewarded, as are some acts of compassion. But prison life has affected many inside with a disdain for life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters survive not only by courage and and determination, but also by some acts of compassion, trust, and commitment. The female characters are as resourceful and resilient as the males, and in some cases just as ruthless.


Some graphic fight scenes in prison including killings; gang leaders have slaves, some of whom are leashed and treated as "dog slaves"; a kidnapping and thievery are depicted; murder is plotted. Incarceron is a dangerous, lawless society where women and children are sold and traded.


Claudia is engaged to a young Earl who was expelled from school for getting girls pregnant, and adultery is expected after they are married. Inside the prison, women and children are sold for sex. No depictions or graphic sex .


Occasional use of "hell," "bitch."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

 A gang leader in the prison uses a drug called "ket."

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byindychaser March 28, 2012

yay no sex in a young teen novel!

This book is a good fun read that isn't very inappropriate. There is a little bit of language but not much, and no graphic sex descriptions which is one of... Continue reading
Parent of a 14, 14, 17, and 18+-year-old Written byMother of 4 Teens July 1, 2010

"Sensitive and Fantasical"

Only one twin liked this, and that was Chester. He prefers sensitive and fantasical. Chase prefer horror and mystery. You can see how this book is not that. I r... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byNerds are awesome 14 February 8, 2018

An Awesome Book

Incarceron was an amazing story with many thing that teens would enjoy.
Teen, 13 years old Written byXinaTurtle October 3, 2015

I have no idea why they said 14

There is no relationships at all, the only things are a few references too a girl and her tutor being in a relationship when there not, and no love or kissing... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and romance

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