The Panopticon

  • by Jenni Fagan
  • Narrated by Gayle Madine
  • 9 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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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- linda


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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- ab

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-14-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios