Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall

Review published on April 25, 2015.Reviewed by Maddy Broome

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

A first novel inspired by research Peyton Marshall carried out on Preston School of Industry, California, which was established in 1890. Like her fictional Goodhouse, it was set up with seemingly good intentions – to educate disadvantaged boys. However the memoirs of boys from Preston School reveal the brutality behind the regime. Similarly the Goodhouse system has become corrupted and is being used for something other than its original purpose.

The novel is set in the not too distant future and seems to be showing what could happen if religious fanaticism and genetic profiling get out of hand. However the background to the story is never properly explained. It’s almost as if there had been a previous book. The boys in the Goodhouse system have been identified as having the genetic markers of criminality. Taken away from their parents at a very early age they are apparently being trained to re-enter society as good citizens. There is a definite element of Big Brother in this part of the novel. The main protagonist is James, who has been brought up in the system since he was three years old and wants to succeed but then things start going wrong when he encounters Bethany and her father Dr Cleveland. There is also the problem of the Zeroes who seem intent on destroying all the Goodhouse establishments and their inhabitants.

It is an interesting book and I read the first part quite quickly but there were several points when I was not entirely sure why something had happened. I think that it is perhaps too ambitious – maybe it should be two books – there is certainly enough material. It also ends in such a way that there would be scope to make it a trilogy! I think it would also be a good crossover book as it covers a lot of teenagers’ feelings and concerns. So, a brave first novel which indicates that Peyton Marshall could be a name to look out for. Reading groups would find plenty of issues to discuss and I think it could be one of those marmite books that engender lively discussions.

– Maddy Broome

Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall, published by Doubleday on 1st January, 2015 at £14.99

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