Parents' Guide to

The Underground Railroad

By Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Riveting, brutal story of woman escaping slavery.

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 1 parent review

age 15+

Unflinching historical fantasy

This book has young adult characters but is meant for a mature reader. It is very real about the physical, emotional and psychological trauma involved in being enslaved or an escaped slave in 19th century America. It is contemporary in its themes - certainly raises questions about race, fairness, and resources in current society. Also it's so realistic in many things, make sure your kids know the Underground Railroad was not actually a train in a tunnel IRL. Undoubtedly a classic that will be on high school curricula for many years to come.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much swearing

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1):
Kids say (3):

Colson Whitehead's riveting story of woman escaping captivity is an eye-opening, brutal, and remarkable study of tensions that pull in opposite directions. On the one hand, his depictions of the lives of enslaved people are thoroughly grounded in heartbreaking and hard-to-take reality; on the other hand, The Underground Railroad is literally a railroad, with engines and cars. Readers who can let go of the literal, and who can appreciate the Gulliver's Travels way that Whitehead shows Cora's possibilities, will get a deeper understanding of what slavery really was and how it continues to affect racism today.

Whitehead's narrative voice perfectly captures the pervasive tension and terror that define every moment of an enslaved person's life. The structure, lifted largely from Jonathan Swift, brilliantly both gives everything away yet somehow creates even more suspense and tension over the outcome. The cruelty and brutality make it best for older teens who are ready for an in-depth, unflinching look into America's shameful past and who are ready to talk about how it still affects us -- and how or whether we can heal from it.

Book Details

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