The White Darkness

Common Sense Media says

Dark Antarctic survival story. Overlong but fascinating.





What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Geraldine McCaughrean
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 1, 2007
Number of pages:373

This review of The White Darkness was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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 many perilous situations. A man suggests that two teenagers have sex. A man commmits suicide after leaving another man to die of exposure. There is some language, but is't nothing more than what your average teen already knows. Altogether, it is an adventurous (but confusing) slightly mature book. Okay for 13+.
Parent of a 11 year old Written bythager April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
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 character makes about her childhood makes this for VERY mature readers.
Teen, 13 years old Written byedwardlover82 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

i thought it was the dumbest book ever!!!!!!!!!!!

she's in love with a dead guy. i couldn't finish the book, because it was to weird. don't read it!!!!!!!EVER!!!!!!!!!!!! it you want a good book read Twilight!


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