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Publisher's Summary

Anais Hendricks, 15, is in the back of a police car, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember the events that led her here, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais' school uniform. Smart, funny, and fierce, Anais is a counter-culture outlaw, a bohemian philosopher in sailor shorts and a pillbox hat. She is also a child, who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met.
The residents of the Panopticon form intense bonds, heightened by their place on the periphery, and Anais finds herself part of an ad hoc family there. Much more suspicious are the social workers, especially Helen, who is about to leave her job for an elephant sanctuary in India but is determined to force Anais to confront the circumstances of her birth before she goes. Looking up at the watchtower that looms over the residents, Anais knows her fate: She is part of an experiment, she always was, it's a given, a liberty - a fact. And the experiment is closing in.
In language dazzling, energetic, and pure, The Panopticon introduces us to a heart-breaking young heroine and an incredibly assured and outstanding new voice in fiction.
©2012 Jenni Fagan (P)2012 Audible Ltd
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By linda on 08-15-13

A Girl with a Shark's Heart

At first, I passed on this novel because of the few negative reviews - and that was a mistake.

The story opens with Anais, a 15 year-old veteran of the Scottish welfare system, sitting in a police car.

Having spent her life shuffled between foster homes, she is finally being transferred to a prison-cum-juvenile-center for the duration of a police investigation wherein she is the prime suspect. Despite unrelenting outrageous fortune, Anais has not become a blank-eyed waif or mindlessly vicious bully like so many of those around her. While occasionally and astonishingly misguided, she has not sacrificed her sense of self.

It starts: "sometimes I feel like a motherless child" and with a lilting, dreamy tone, Fagan deftly constructs a deeply caring, fierce young girl carving her way through a mean world. This debut author - a poet by trade - imbues her protagonist with an exquisite vulnerability and steely resilience. Anais is a philosopher on psychedelics; she dances lightly between reality and unreality as she tries to survive a prejudiced and casually cruel welfare system.

This novel is not flawless; it's sometimes slow or aimlessly provocative - but Fagan's language, which jumps from supernal to vulgar and back again, makes up for the plot's rough edges.

The narrator too, deserves applause. Her accent (comprehensible, perfect) and pace are absolutely, unreservedly wonderful. She is a seamless fit for Anais.

All told, I'd highly recommend it.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By ab on 04-22-17


heartbreaking, Stark glimpse into lives of children in the system. narrator had Scottish brogue, got used to it after a bit.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By P. J. T. Brown on 03-25-14

A tough wee lassie...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Inventive use of language; tough and emotionally satisfying.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Panopticon?

The exposure of the observers scurrying away.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Her last journey - such hope, and the feeling that she'd succeed.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Her return to the asylum in which she was born.

Any additional comments?

Almost entirely narrated from Anise's viewpoint this novel fits well with other Scottish writers such as James Kellman and Ali Smith, and further back to the Irish writer Samuel Beckett, though very accessible. As the Panoptican is an observer, so is the author - so questions arise about the craft of fiction. The audio delivery is quite stunning, giving full force to Anise and her pals inventive use of language - but it is Anise's developing psychological maturity and her ultimate ability for self-reflection that enables her to act. You have to tell your own story, and join up all the threads - others cannot do this for you.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Linden on 06-29-13


This is a book that I think I may not have read in book form, but enjoyed so much as an audio book. Wonderful narration. It is a disturbing story about a teenager who has had a lousy life and is constantly in trouble with the law. The sort of person who may repel most of us. As the story unfolds, her 'good' side and humanity starts to unfold and all the characters we meet in the Panopticon are well-rounded and beautifully drawn. Eventually, to my amazement, I found myself gunning for her to get away with her crimes, and even laughing sometimes at things she did! I also found it intensely sad and worrying that life treats people in this way, with no seeming hope for them for the future. My four star, rather than five star rating for the story is because I felt that the end was somewhat unsatisfactory, but this is a small quibble. In no way did it spoil the overall story for me, which will live with me for a long time.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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