Friday, 1 June 2012

All Good Children by Catherine Austen

Creativity is a crime Max commits every day.

It's the middle of the twenty-first century and the elite children of New Middletown are lined up to receive a treatment that turns them into obedient, well-mannered citizens. Maxwell Connors, a fifteen-year-old prankster, misfit and graffiti artist, observes the changes with growing concern, especially when his younger sister, Ally, is targeted. Max and his best friend, Dallas, escape the treatment, but must pretend to be "zombies" while they watch their freedoms and hopes decay. When Max's family decides to take Dallas with them into the unknown world beyond New Middletown's borders, Max's creativity becomes an unexpected bonus rather than a liability.


Honestly, my review will do this book no justice. In fact, I should have written this review a long time ago, just never got around to it. Which is weird because I loved this book. Now, I'm not talking about the liked, love. I'm talking about the loved, loved. It is one of those novels that will bring tears to your eyes because of its ferocious writing style. Its power dripping in all the words, and oh, all the emotions. You guys noticing how I'm using all the italics? I can't emphasise my point enough. Let me start by praising the author. Because you know what? A lot of people don't think of it this way, but the power of writing is in the authors hands. Catherine Austen has made my top three, and to make my top three, you need requirements that go beyond the normal. Beyond the beyond. I can't even describe this requirement. It's like something that lives in my heart (sound too cliché? I don't kid when I say: I love books). I loved all the characters in All Good Children. I loved how they were all connected, and by the way, I'm the kind of person who loves romance in novels, but this book has made me realise that friendship is so much more stronger. I loved the voice of the main characters, and the not so main characters. I loved the plot and how it was intertwined with everything else in the book. It was very powerful.

The story takes place in the time we are living in, yet everything is a little bit tighter. Everything is more high tech, and parents can actually decide what kind of child they want. The richer your family is, the more perfect you will be. Like, say, Xavier Lavigne. No, he's not the main character, but he is the neighbour of the main character and also my favourite. Just picture the perfect, tall, athletic blond and you've got Xavier. What I like about him is that he has a very unique and original personality. For example, instead of greeting you with a 'hi' or 'hey', he'll launch into some sort of rant about something. Whether it be something nerdy about science, some new facts, or just about society. He's also a master mind hacker. He can get you in just about any network. In fact, while Max (main character) was away visiting some dead relative, Xavier marked him present for all his classes at school.

When Max, his sister Ally, and his mother return, things aren't really the same. In fact, ever since the death of his father, things haven't been the same. Max is almost as black as his mother, while Ally is white like his father, so there were some issues there. Also, ever since the death of their father, they've been really poor. Max, who loves creativity, and his friend Dallas, who has a rich father, notice that that the children in Ally's school are acting weird. Very obedient, like 'zombies' as they would refer to them as. When all the children in Ally's school become zombies, she must pretend to be one of them or else the authorities would have to give her the medicine they gave the other children. The whole thing is called 'NESTING', and it's supposed to turn children into obedient freaks. Sad thing is, when Dallas and Max get themselves into detention, it's their turn to be given the shot, but because of some reasons (read the book) they're saved, and now it's their turn to act like zombies. (Nesting, guys, look at the nest on the cover!)

What I really liked about the book was not really the plot, though it was still amazing. What I liked was how all the relationships were really a big part of it. Once you become a zombie, or see someone you love turn into a zombie, it's like watching your family turn against you. Turn into complete strangers who are totally incapable of emotions and that is just sad. Of course, it wouldn't be sad if you, the reader, wasn't given the opportunity to connect with the characters first.

That's another thing I loved about this book. The biggest development was that of the characters, yet there was still an active plot throughout the story. Max is this short, art loving dude who you just can't get enough of. He has a somewhat big ego, and is addicted to is RIG (which is kind of like an ipod touch, just more developed). He isn't the kind of character who's always talking loudly just to draw attention or seem cool, nor is he the quiet, good boy like in most stories. He's in between, and he actually has an original personality that actually shows in the book.

Oh, and then there was Dallas. There was a part in the story were I wanted to strangle him, but not because I didn't like him, but because he was acting like a zombie *shudders*. And I didn't care so much because he wasn't my favourite character (but I did like him) but because he was Max's best friend. And it was like I was watching someone important to me, ignore me like Dallas did to Max.

Overall, I can't praise this book enough. I can't thank Catherine Austen enough for making me realise that reading a book with a strong friendship is more heart-clenching then reading a book with a cheesy romance. I cried almost every other page, and it was only because of the importance of family and friendship. Definitely a five stars. Well, OK, 100/5. I'm not even kidding here.

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