Ready Player One



Exciting, funny, futuristic thriller about online games.

What parents need to know

Educational value

The narrative is filled with trivia about the 1980s and the early days of computer gaming.

Positive messages

The protagonist learns that he must rely on the help of others if he has any chance of winning the contest. He also discovers the pleasures of life outside a computer simulation.

Positive role models

Protagonist Wade and his online cohorts are brave and resourceful, determined to keep the OASIS gaming world free for all citizens.


The villains blow up the trailer park where the protagonist's aunt lives, but the protagonist learns the news second-hand. A secondary character is thrown out a window, but the act is not depicted.


There is speculation of what the real bodies of the players might look like and some flirting, but there is no depiction of sex, virtual or otherwise.


The gamers engage in "trash talk" during their encounters and use variations of the f-word.


Most characters in this futuristic world have very few material possessions, but many gamers try to save enough money to afford expensive computer peripherals. The online world is full of consumer items that can be purchased with virtual credits.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alcohol use and smoking are lightly depicted in some of the online settings.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this humorous science fiction thriller deals with a high-stakes online contest that mixes puzzles with video game violence. Set in a depressed future United States, where most people escape into virtual reality, it features a bunch of tough-talking teens fighting to keep their online playground out of the hands of an evil corporation.

What's the story?

Like nearly everyone on the depleted, depressed Planet Earth, high school student Wade Watts dreams of winning the untold billions at stake in a contest devised by James Halliday, late inventor of OASIS, the immersive virtual utopia that allows anyone to plug in and leave the real world behind. Obsessed with Reagan-era pop culture and technology, Halliday creates a series of puzzles that can only be solved by someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of science fiction, player-vs.-player fighting strategies, and the software mogul's own personal history. As the stakes grow higher and players begin to die in the real world, Wade must decide whether he can trust anyone else in his quest for the ultimate prize.

Is it any good?


Layered with inside jokes and sly references that will appeal to a wide range of readers, READY PLAYER ONE is a smart, funny thriller that both celebrates and critiques online culture. The author is accomplished at developing suspense even though much of the narrative is set in virtual reality. The puzzles are intriguing, the action is intense, and the payoff at the end is worth all the buildup.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about making predictions of the future based on current trends. Does the setting of the book seem plausible?  What assumptions is the author making about changes in politics and economics between now and 2044?

  • What are the advantages and the disadvantages of having so much information available 24/7? How might near-ubiquitous social media affect our culture?

  • The protagonist, Wade Watts, spends a lot of time hiding his location and true identity. How do his precautions compare to the strategies you use to work online safely?

  • Do you think the contest in the novel could really be solved by one person working entirely alone? What are the advantages or disadvantages of working as a team?

Book details

Author:Ernest Cline
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:August 16, 2011
Number of pages:376

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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; OK 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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Kid, 11 years old July 14, 2014

A geeks' dream (but anyone would love it:)

When I finished Ready Player One I was stunned. It had everything that a good book should have; plot twists, fore shadowing, characters with personality, action, humor, you derived knowledge from it....... Sorry! I tend to get excited about amazing books. When I read this book I didn't read anything that bad unless swearing and game violence makes you uncomfortable (all the language is basically smack talk as it does often appear in games). Also, it might make you feel upset because they live on what was once our world but now is ruined because of what humans did to it. It might also frighten someone because it shows what people would go to get money. I will never forget this books and the messages and new ideas within it.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Parent Written byChristian Parent2 August 1, 2015

Topics Parents May Want to Discuss

Parents need to know that early in the book the author expresses strong views promoting atheism and the horror of global warming. He talks about masturbation, and an important character turns out to be gay, which the author uses to convey his opinions on how gay people should be received when they come out. The characters don't converse often, but when they do, there is usually some profanity. I researched this book before reading it and saw references to some of these topics but little to no mention of others.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written bytaylorpenny December 29, 2013

Awesome Novel Abounds With Profanity

This amazing novel from Ernest Cline features heavy language (f*ck, s*it, a**, b*tch, and every other bad word you could think of). If your kid is a fan of Ernest Cline's work on Buzz Feed, or his massive Internet presence on his blog, expect him/her to become interested in this one. There is a lot of violence, but almost all of it is in a video game, outside of one person's death in real life. I think it does have a positive message, that hard work and teamwork will result in great rewards. There is no sexual content, but there is a brief reference to masturbation (it takes up about half a page) and another brief reference to simulated sexual content. However, the narrator dismisses it as sad and pathetic. A couple of scenes take place in clubs, and two characters order alcoholic beverages, but this is in no way promoting consumption of alcohol. If your kid has already been exposed to offensive language, this should be fine. I, personally, read this when I was 12, and it had no effect on me.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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