Instant Karma

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Instant Karma Book Poster Image
Opposites attract and karma is served in cute teen romance.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Information on marine animals and human impact on oceans and sea life. Details on marine animal rescue, rehabilitation, and the workings of nonprofit rescue groups. Lots of pop music references, new and old.

Positive Messages

Don't be judgmental. Open yourself up to ideas from other people. Be careful what you wish for. A strong work ethic is a positive trait but remember to nurture all areas of your life. Doing good makes you feel good.

Positive Role Models

Prudence can be an uptight, judgmental perfectionist, but she's a hard worker and a good person at heart. She encourages and supports her friends and eventually learns to open up and be less narrow minded. Quint seems irresponsible, but he cares deeply about rescuing marine life, the environment, and his artwork. Most of the main characters present as White. Prudence's friend Ari is Latinx.


Descriptions of injured marine animals. A few slips and falls.


Attraction and dating figure into the plot. Some kissing.


Mild, infrequent swearing, including "crap," "hell," "a--hole," "god," "ass." 


Media and brands mentioned for scene setting, including Tylenol, Crest, Goldfish, Netflix, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens, but not the main characters, drink at a big bonfire party on the beach. Teens are offered alcohol at a gala and turn it down. Another teen drinks a glass of champagne.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Instant Karma, by Marissa Meyer, is about Prudence, a hardworking perfectionist teen who, after a head injury, develops the power of delivering karmic justice to deserving people. On the last day of her sophomore year, Prudence receives a low grade on a major science project, and she insists on redoing it over the summer, leading her to volunteer at the local marine rescue organization. The center is owned by the mom of her sworn nemesis, Quint. The two were partnered on the big project and each blame the other for poor communication and the unsatisfactory final product. Working together at the rescue center, they continue to bicker and antagonize each other but eventually learn to work together in this opposites-attract romance. The story's content is tame. There's a little kissing; mild, infrequent swearing ("crap," "hell," "a--hole," "ass") and a couple of instance of teen drinking There are descriptions of injured sea animals, and the rest of the violence is limited to slipping and falling. Discussion topics include the problem with being judgmental and rigid, the need to be more open minded and caring, checking one's intentions, and the dangers of wishing ill on people.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 16 years old Written byJeanieK April 22, 2021

It was a good book!

This was a great entertaining, creative story that was very enjoyable. Although the main character started off a "control freak" and the point of the... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byalphagirl2020 October 31, 2021

Light, Cute, and Best for Romance Fans

To start things off—I am not a fan of the romance genre. But, I am a fan of Marissa Meyer’s writing, so I decided to give Instant Karma a shot.
I was not disapp... Continue reading

What's the story?

In INSTANT KARMA, Prudence Daniels not only strives to overachieve at everything in her life, she has no patience for anyone who slacks off or slows her down. She's partnered with easy-going Quint Erickson for a major school science project, and she gets her first ever C. She blames Quint and pushes to redo the project over the summer. This leads her to volunteer at the local marine animal rescue center, which is owned by Quint's mom. Before she starts working at the rescue center, she slips and hits her head, and afterward discovers she has the power to dole out karmic retribution just by wishing it on people. Much to her frustration, Prudence's newfound power of karmic justice doesn't work on Quint. In fact, when she tries to hex him, it backfires on her. Prudence and Quint work together at the rescue center for the summer, arguing and irritating one another, but they eventually let down their guards and see the good in each other. Prudence's big plan for redoing their school project involves fundraising for the rescue center, which leads to some big plot twists and turns as she learns more about the financial problems they're having. Prudence also learns that her new powers are not without undesirable consequences.

Is it any good?

This heartwarming romance is cute and fun, but it's overly long and gets bogged down in too many side plots. Instant Karma is best when it illustrates how people can learn from each other, grow, and become more empathetic. Prudence's a tough character to like for much of the book. She's argumentative, rigid, and judgmental. Even though she learns how to deal with these issues, she's hard to take a lot of the time. The notion of a person who's so judgmental getting the power of bestowing karmic justice on others is interesting. Prudence revels in it at first, but she eventually learns that all actions have consequences, and some of those consequences can be serious. The romance angle works well enough. Prudence and Quint have the classic opposites-attract vibe going on, but their squabbles get old, as they have the same arguments over and over. Author Marissa Meyer includes lots of detail on the workings of the marine animal rescue center. It's a fascinating part of the book and will be informative for lots of readers. Overall, this story is built for lovers of sweet, light romance, if they can look past the long, twisting, unnecessary side plots.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Prudence's sudden powers in Instant Karma. How do you feel about stories of people with superpowers? Is it a fun fantasy? How do superpowers affect a character's reality? Can they do more damage than imagined?

  • If you were to have a special power, what would it be and what would you use it for?

  • How well do you take criticism? It's an important part of learning and growing as a person, but it is often hard to hear. Is it something you need to work on?

  • Do you make assumptions about people you don't know well? Have you ever judged someone and then changed your mind after you learned more about them?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance and superpowers

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