The Finisher



Hunger Games, Potter fans will enjoy exciting fantasy.

What parents need to know

Educational value

How a worker finishes products in a factory is briefly explained. The logistical problems and dangers associated with a large construction project are briefly mentioned.

Positive messages

Keep searching for the truth, don't accept what others tell you, find out for yourself. The worst place to be is in a situation where you don't know something's wrong -- in other words, being ignorant of your situation or surroundings.

Positive role models

Vega Jane, 14, is brave and resourceful. She's determined to learn the truth and to break free of the limitations imposed by society. She's loyal to family and friends, caring and compassionate, and able to hold her own against formidable adult authority figures. She sometimes makes rash decisions that put her in danger, but she's also willing to take the time to get the training she needs and to plan strategy. Best friend Delph models the loyal sidekick and patiently helps Vega stay on the right path. Vega's parents are ill in a care facility, and other adults exhibit the full gamut of behaviors from good to evil.


Vega's frequently in peril because of scary fantasy creatures, and descriptions of fighting them involve brief descriptions of blood. A central event involves a fighting championship in which two combatants fight hand-to-hand duels until one is unable to continue, and the descriptions follow the blows and injuries in detail. Vega, her pet dog, and her friend Delph are shot at, and the dog's and Delph's injuries are briefly described. A past execution by beheading is clearly described but not gory.


Vega and Delph kiss a few times.


Characters frequently swear using British slang, so the strength of the word may be lost on American readers. "Bloody," "arse," and "git" (roughly equivalent in strength to "a--hole" in American English) are used frequently. "Prat" is used a few times, as is "bollocks." "Bum" is used once or twice, and variants of "hell," spelled "Hel" and "bloody Hel" are used several times.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink at the pub, and Vega's boss at the factory is described as frequently drunk on "flame water." In an extended conversation with Vega, his drinking is specifically narrated, and he supposes he mostly drinks because it's become a habit. Adults also smoke tobacco, called "smoke weed," from pipes called "stick bowls," and unpleasant, menacing characters chew and spit smoke weed.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that prolific, best-selling phenomenon David Baldacci's first young adult book, The Finisher, is a big bite at around 500 pages, but it's a bite that tweens and teens will really sink their teeth into. Think The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter. Vega Jane, 14, is a strong heroine and worthy successor to THG's Katniss. The novel's set in a fantasy world with frequent peril from scary monsters, and blood is mentioned a lot without being described in detail. Blows and injuries from tournament fistfighting duels are described in some detail. There are two or three quick kisses mentioned briefly, not too yucky for younger tweens. The fantasy village parallels British villages in a lot of ways, and the strong language is all in British slang, including "bloody," "arse," "git," and "prat."

Kids say

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What's the story?

Vega Jane, 14, lives in the village of Wormwood, and, as everyone knows, Wormwood is all there is. Everyone also knows that Wormwood is surrounded by a terrifying wilderness called the Quag, home to every horrific beast imaginable (and more that aren't). When one of her coworkers disappears into the Quag, Vega starts to wonder if there might not be more to the world beyond. And the more she starts to question the ruling Council's policies and wisdom, the more determined she becomes to find out the truth for herself by escaping Wormwood and trying to cross the Quag herself -- that is, if she can survive Duelum, where she'll have to fight to the finish against Wormwood's biggest, strongest warriors, who are capable of killing with one blow.

Is it any good?


Author David Baldacci's young adult debut is a winner. It's an exciting fantasy that combines elements of the Hunger Games-style dystopia with Harry Potter-type magic in a unique, engaging world. Vega Jane is a compelling action heroine who's loyal and cares deeply about family and friends. A large cast of colorful and well-developed characters round out Vega's world, which is richly imagined and vividly realized. The ending is exciting and satisfying but still likely to leave kids hoping for a Book 2.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why fantasy books are so popular.  What do we enjoy about them so much?

  • Are Vega Jane and Wormwood similar to Katniss and Panem of The Hunger Games? How are they different? If you've read The Hunger Games, which did you like better?

  • In what language do you think the chapter numbers are written? Why aren't they in English?

Book details

Author:David Baldacci
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Friendship, Great girl role models
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:March 4, 2014
Number of pages:512
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (abridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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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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Adult Written bykizerk June 16, 2015

Great Book for 4-8 graders

The strong female role is refreshing to me. There are some parts that may upset younger readers, but overall good for 9+.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Adult Written byBrij1234 March 1, 2015

Loved it!

It's awesome! I can't wait for book 2 to come out!
Adult Written byModesty Bridget September 20, 2015
I loved the book. I recommend it for all tweens and young adults.
What other families should know
Too much violence


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