A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Teens may rapidly read this book and look to other installments in the series. The author raises many issues for discussion, among them gender roles and relations, the place of killing in our society, religion, utopianism, what growing up really means, and (in an allegorical way) the cost of our information-saturated culture.
The society in this story is very sexist, in some cases to the point of deliberately massacring women -- but Todd's coming-of-age story gives readers a chance to think about a wide range of issues, including what it really means to be a grown up.
Positive Role Models
Todd discovers that everything he has been told is a lie. Readers will have no trouble rooting for him as he flees an army bent on conquest, and an insane preacher bent on murder.
Violence & Scariness
Lots, and quite grim and gruesome, including a man who has part of his face torn off, a man who beats and stabs a boy, a dog killed by breaking its back, children killing, and a girl shot in the belly. There are many injuries with realistic consequences, and many deaths. One especially gruesome climactic fight involves breaking of bones, snapping of gristle, crushing of eyeballs, and lots of blood.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A mention of castrating sheep.
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"F--k" used once, "effing" used often as a stand-in, "goddamn" used several times.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A girl is drugged, adults smoke and drink to drunkenness.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a fantasy book, but it does feature some gruesome violence -- horrible injuries are described graphically, and there is a shocking level of brutality, especially of men toward boys, women, and animals. One climactic fight involves the breaking of bones, snapping of gristle, crushing of eyeballs, and lots of blood. Not for the fainthearted or sensitive.
Is It Any Good?
Don't even think of reading this book if you don't like being left at a cliffhanger -- the one here is a doozy.
In the course of this lengthy, complex, suspenseful, and emotional novel, the first in a proposed series called Chaos Walking, the author raises many issues for discussion, among them gender roles and relations, the place of killing in our society, religion, utopianism, what growing up really means, and (in an allegorical way) the cost of our information-saturated culture. He also includes possibly the best talking-dog character in all of literature, a dog who talks just exactly the way you'd imagine a dog would, to endearing and devastating effect.
Up until the cliffhanger, the suspense has ratcheted up and up, as has the graphic violence -- if they make a movie version of this, it will surely earn an R rating. Though too violent for younger readers, for mature teens this is a first-rate, thought-provoking, fast-moving thriller.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.