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The Limit Paperback – December 6, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 6-10–With personal debt out of control, the federal government monitors spending and forces families who exceed their limit to undergo stringent measures to correct the problem. One option is for their teenage children to be sent to a workhouse where they can earn money to help reduce the family debt. Matt, a math and computer whiz, is not concerned for himself because his parents are smart enough and rich enough to play by the rules–right? But the unthinkable happens and, despite the fact that he is only in eighth grade, he is whisked off to a facility. His considerable intelligence and skills make him a “Top Floor”; he lives in luxury and is given intellectually stimulating work. Still, Matt realizes he is in a prison, and, with his hacker skills and the help of other Top Floors, determines to discover the truth. The protagonist is for the most part likable, and his actions and reactions are age-appropriate. The supporting characters, especially his parents, are not fully developed but do not detract from the fast-moving plot. Tension builds nicely as the climax nears, but most readers will guess some of the workhouse secrets before Matt and his friends do, and the denouement is unsatisfying. While the most egregious wrongs are resolved, the very idea of children being forced to work for their parents' economic sins is cheerfully accepted. This is better than Suzanne Wayne's The Bar Code Tattoo (Scholastic, 2004) but not quite on par with Margaret Peterson Haddix's Found (S & S, 2008). Fans of both books will enjoy it.–Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

What would you do if your family suddenly went over their spending limit and you were taken away to a workhouse to help pay down their debt? Matthew Dunston finds himself in just such a situation. The Federal Debt Rehabilitation Agency gives his family no choice; thankfully, Matt scores high enough on all the tests to be assigned to the Top Floor. He likes his living arrangements, but he knows something is amiss. When Matt learns his sister, Lauren, is in the workhouse and is suffering from seizures, he knows it’s time to let the outside world know what is happening. Using all his wits and with the help of his Top Floor friends, he sets about to crack the secrets of the workhouse. From the first sentence (An eighth-grade girl was taken today), Landon captures readers’ attention and keeps it. This first-person, part realistic fiction, part fantasy should appeal to readers looking for high-action adventure. Grades 8-11. --J. B. Petty --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Aladdin; Reprint edition (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442402725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442402720
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kristen Landon always thought it would be nice to live in a place where winter never gets too cold. Besides one lovely winter in California, she has spent her life bouncing back and forth between Michigan and Utah - both great places in the spring, summer, and fall. She now lives with her husband and four children in a home with fabulous views of Utah's beautiful mountains out every window.

Learn more at www.kristenlandon.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Kaye Oldner on October 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Thirteen-year-old Matthew Dunston lives on a world that sounds similar to ours. The one major difference is the government has a debt limit on spending. If a family exceeds this limit, children are taken and placed in workhouses. This conjures up all sorts of horrible images, like slave camps with all sorts of abuse going on. Am I right? But wonder if these places had nice rooms with cool recreational areas and you could order anything you wanted online? You might be asking what's the catch?

This is exactly what happened when Matt's parents went over the limit. The Federal Debt Rehabilitation Agency took him into custody and he landed on the top floor of a workhouse. It was a floor reserved for the brightest kids. At first, he enjoys the freedom of ordering what he wants, but something is off. Who pays for this stuff?

When Matt's sister becomes a resident of the same facility, he discovers just how flawed this system is. What has him more concerned is the health of the residents. Some of the kids are getting headaches and his sister has a seizure right before his eyes. The staff treated this as a minor incident, but she'd never had seizures before. Matt isn't about to stop until he gets to the bottom of what's going on.

The most gripping part of this story was the parallel between Matt's world and our own. With the direction of our country is heading and the massive personal debt of consumers being so out of control, it made me wonder if this scenario could happen.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Donna C on October 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
See, for me, that blurb exerts far more tension than what the story did. Yeah, the threat is there but it's kind of cartoonish and the way it's told kind of waters down the tension that could be there.

To be fair, this is more of a middle grade novel than a young adult. Just the age of the MC and the style it was written in showcases that so I'm not a prime candidate to judge this one. But I think I can still make a few comments on it.

I loved the kids in this story. I just thought each one of them so individually unique, with their own quirks that stood out so vividly on the page that I felt they were right there next to me. Matt was so real and up until the end, even Honey Lady (a nickname Matt gave her that existed, for the most part, in his head) was exceptionally real. I think that was the strongest part of this book; the characters.

The world I could believe too. I'm not sure of the greater overall motive of the government to put spending caps on people or take their children away. It's really government spending and deregulation that ultimately screws over debt but that's beside the point. It felt real to me for personal reasons I won't go into. I kept being able to put myself in Matt's shoes and I found it horrifying. When you're that young you have such faith in your parents that they're doing right and when you find out they're not infallible, it hurts. In this world it just so happens the children that have to have that realization end up paying for it. Again, I don't really get the dynamics but I'll swallow it.

The parts leading up to the workhouse were really good, grinding in tension in the background through backstory and hint-dropping. I liked it. But I think it unhinged a little bit once the workhouse came into play.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on November 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In Matt Dunston's futuristic world, the government had tight control over the country's economic and social structure. It institutionalized senior citizens deemed as unfit and expropriated all their assets, it closely monitored the income and expenditures of every household through an extensive computerized system, and it established a Federal Debt Ordinance in which children of a certain age were forced to work in a workhouse to help reduce their family's debt.

Just thirteen and living comfortably, Matt did not pay much attention to this ordinance until his parents went over their spending limit and a debt rehabilitation agent took him away. Adding to his shock, Matt felt confused and alone. His cell phone did not work, his emails to family and friends went unanswered, and he could not leave the top floor of the building where he worked and lived. The arrangements seemed increasingly suspicious, especially when he noticed an unusual number of children complaining of severe headaches and even seizures. Little did Matt foresee the amount of ingenuity and courage it would take to try to uncover the hidden truths behind the workhouse in which he was confined.

Suspenseful and clever, this novel paints an unsettling picture of a future in which cash-less transactions increase the temptation of excess spending and children pay the price of their parents' indulgences. While lessons of budget constraints, child labor, and corporate profiteering abound, readers will get a good dose of intrigue and adventure along the way to make these lessons palatable and interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jordyn on September 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This review has also been posted to my book blog, Ten Cent Notes. ([...])

In this middle grade dystopian novel, we meet Matt. A young, brilliant math geek whose not-so-brilliant parents have gone over their "limit" -- the government-imposed debt limit. What this means for Matt is that he's sent away to a workhouse to help pay off the debt until his family gets back under the limit. What he's expecting to be a child slave camp is actually pretty cushy; he tests into the Top Floor, which is reserved for the smartest kids who do the most difficult work, and suddenly he has everything he could want. New clothes and gadgets are just a click away and he's free to spend most of his time playing sports or video games with his fellow Top Floors. But, as with every dystopia, all is not as it seems. Children on the other floors are having massive headaches, sometimes even seizures, and when his own sister ends up suffering a seizure when she arrives at the workhouse, he becomes convinced that something bad is going on around him. This, along with the fact that he's forbidden to leave the top floor or go outside, pushes Matt to risk everything to discover what's really happening in the workhouse.

This was an enjoyable and interesting book, however I did have some issues with it. The main problem I had was that it took a long time to really get going -- it was well past the 50 page mark before I felt like I had to finish it. Page 137 to be exact, which is nearly halfway through the book. There's a lot of set up here that I doubt many kids would sit through (just like I almost didn't). The characters are likable however, as with much else in this book, it took a long time to get to know them.
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