Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Post-apocalyptic/Dystopian, Tween Reads

The Big Dark will show you what you’re made of.

big darkThe Big Dark, by Rodman Philbrick (Jan. 2016, Blue Sky Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780545789752

Recommended for ages 9-14

On New Year’s Eve, the lights went out. Everything went out. Charlie, a tween living with his younger sister and widowed mom in the mountains of New Hampshire, sets off on a seemingly impossible mission when he discovers that his diabetic mother doesn’t have enough medication to sustain herself for more than three weeks.

Charlie’s small town shows us how we can turn on one another – or reach out and help one another – when the worst case scenario happens. When a solar event causes all technology to fail, the entire country – maybe even the world – is knocked back to Colonial days, relying on wood stoves and preserved food to survive. There’s a volunteer policeman/school janitor who takes charge of the situation, urging everyone to band together to muddle through, and there’s a ruthless survivalist who sees his chance to form his own free state. In the middle of this power struggle, Charlie has to find a way to sneak out and search for medicine in the nearest city, at least 50 miles away. With no power and after a blizzard.

Philbrick’s books always hit like a gut punch. Whether it’s the stark The Last Book in the Universe, the heart-wrenching Freak the Mighty, or the desperation in The Big Dark, he knows how to create a taut, white-knuckled narrative that will keep you reading until the very last words are digested. He finds the humanity in the worst possible situations, and pits it against the worst in humanity. There’s always hope in a Philbrick novel. His characters keep going, keep fighting. That’s what I love about his books.

This book is realistic fiction, with a touch of dystopia. This is a scary thought, because it makes the seemingly impossible very, very real. Give this to your middle grade dystopian fans and tell them that this is what happens before The Hunger Games. Give this to your Hatchet fans, and your survival fiction readers. Tell your readers to read this, and then read Michael Northrup’s Trapped, for an interesting discussion.

Rodman Philbrick is an award-winning author of middle grade and young adult fiction. Visit his author website for interviews, teaching guides, and more information on his books.


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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