The White Darkness

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The White Darkness Book Poster Image
Dark Antarctic survival story. Overlong but fascinating.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lawrence Titus Oates was a real explorer, and readers may be inspired to learn more about him, and other adventurers. Readers may also want to investigate Symme's Hole.

Positive Messages

Coming-of-age themes as Symone taps into her inner strength to fight to survive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Readers might be impressed that the book's protagonist is an unpopular, hearing-impaired 14- year-old girl. Initially, she is quite gullible, but fights to survive in incredible conditions.


Several murders, by poison and by explosion.


Teens kiss, think about going further (encouraged by an adult); a teen girl brags of a sexual relationship with a 30-year-old man; discussions of having sex, nothing graphic.


"S--t" and "f--k" each used once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and drunkenness referred to. Herbal teas are used to poison people.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there are some discussions about having sex, not graphic, and a few murders in this Printz Award-winning adventure story. Readers might be impressed that the book's protagonist is a hearing-impaired 14-year-old misfit girl. Initially, she is quite gullible -- to a rather unbelievable degree -- but fights to survive in incredible conditions. Readers may be inspired to learn more about Lawrence Titus Oates -- a real explorer who is also Symone's imaginary friend. They may also want to investigate Symme's Hole.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymoviemadness April 9, 2008

Strange, but exciting too.

Parents need to know that there is some hefty stuff in here. Two teens discuss a man that has poisoned two other men, and who may poison them. Teens are in ma... Continue reading
Parent of a 11-year-old Written bythager April 9, 2008
The language in this book is a problem. Also, the uncle's descent into madness and violence is quite frightening. The horrifying discovery the main charact... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byTripFoot June 9, 2013

My precioussss

I need it! I need it NAO!
Teen, 13 years old Written bykittykoo March 30, 2010


UM, got up to page 27 had to put it down... and i am not one to put down books easy
I dont sugest you read it.
i wont even try and attempt to read it again, com... Continue reading

What's the story?

Sym, a young teen outcast, is hard of hearing, obsessed with the Antarctic, and in love with Titus Oates, who died on the Scott Expedition 90 years earlier. When old family friend Victor takes her to Paris, and then spirits her off to the Antarctic, she is thrilled. But Victor is dangerously unhinged, and determined to trek into the heart of the frozen continent to search for the mythical Symme's Hole, supposedly an entrance to an underground civilization at the heart of the hollow earth.

Is it any good?

The subject matter -- Antarctica -- is one to inspire flights of poetry, but the author's lyrical descriptions are a bit overdone. It's a pity too, because the less experienced or impatient readers may be put off and give up, and they will miss out on an exciting 200-page survival story hidden within this nearly 400-page book.

It takes a while to get to Antarctica, and in the meantime readers may also be annoyed by Symone, whose blind faith in the first part of the book strains credulity. When Victor takes her to Paris, he leaves her mother behind even though she was supposed to accompany them. A sensible girl, which she is supposed to be, might have gotten suspicious, especially when she finds her mother's passport in his pocket. And what about when he suggests that they take an unplanned jaunt off to Antarctica, and says her mother won't mind? And so on. News of the depths of his duplicity later in the book come as revelations to Sym, but the reader will have seen them coming a long way off. Even so, readers willing to accept her foolishness will root for Symone -- a hearing-impaired 14-year old -- who fights to survive in incredible conditions in this unusual story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Symme's Hole and the whole "hollow earth" theory. Why do people continue to believe in things like this, despite clear and compelling evidence of its falsehood?

  • This book won the 2008 Printz Award from the American Library Association, given to a young adult book to honor its literary excellence. Did it deserve this award? Looking at the list of other Printz winners and honors, are there other books you'd like to read?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate