The Goodness Gene

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Goodness Gene Book Poster Image
A poor take on evil future government.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

In the beginning Will is arrogant, selfish, and spoiled, though he learns better.


The government engages in terminating those who are deformed or crippled, both after birth and before.


People in this society use "symsex" instead of real sex: this is discussed and compared, and the main character uses it once, though he doesn't like it. It is implied that young girls are used as prostitutes for officials.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs are used by the government for genetic enhancement and mood control.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the comparative virtues of simulated sex and natural sex are discussed. The government practices euthanasia and the equivalent of abortion, though the fetuses are all grown in labs, but this is portrayed as the actions of an evil government.

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written byAnAprilFool4u April 9, 2008


this book was great! i learned alot about genetic engineering and cloning even though this is a fiction story! pretty sweet stuff ^_~
Teen, 17 years old Written byalliwalker April 9, 2008

Good read, but is not for pre-teens

The Goodness Gene is a very good book, but has alot of touchy topics, so I do not advise this book for kids under 13 years old.

What's the story?

Will is the son of the Compassionate Director of the Dominion of the Americas in a post-apocalyptic future. He and his brother, Berk, have been raised in privilege and trained for leadership, someday to take over from their father. They eat artificial food, breathe artificial air, and live in a loveless, sexless, sterile world where fetuses are created in labs and \"The Goodness\" is enforced on all.

As part of his training Will is sent to observe some of the outlying areas, including a \"Compassionate Removal,\" in which imperfect people are taken away, supposedly for a better life on an asteroid. But a ruptured appendix lands him in a hospital, where he begins to find out things about himself that turn his world upside down and make him realize that everything he has been taught a lie.

Is it any good?

When an author has a Point to make, the story usually takes a back seat -- and that is certainly true here. Author Sonia Levitin has a Point, as she details in an Author's Note and extensive source list, though even with all that it's a little hard to see clearly just what it is, beyond "we're all going to Hell in a hand basket." And she hammers home that vague Point with a cudgel so heavy that it is at times almost laughable. She is so determined to stack the deck against this future society that she brings Hitler, that old reliable bogeyman, into the equation.

This kind of thing has been done before, and much better. Levitin starts right out by violating Rule 1 of dystopian novels: The society has to have at least some superficial appeal before the big reveal of the rot at its core, else why would anyone put up with it? It would be nice to have characters you can care about, and a story that doesn't just go on with nothing much happening other than the main character gradually realizing the painfully obvious.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the author's pessimistic view of the future. Do you think this is a realistic extrapolation from modern trends? What's the purpose of dystopian fiction? Can you think of other examples, either in books or other media?

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