The Big Dark

The Big Dark
Age Range
Release Date
January 05, 2016
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What would you do if every spark of electricity suddenly vanished, as if somebody had flipped a switch on the entire planet? Cars won't start, the heat shuts off, there's no water in your faucet, and your radio, TV, and flashlight go dark. Everyone in Charlie's small town is baffled.

But as time passes, lawlessness erupts and takes an ugly turn. When the market and pharmacy are torched by an anti-Semitic arsonist, Charlie realizes his mother will die without her medicine. So he dons skis and heads off alone, seeking the nearest hospital. After traveling 50 miles through brutal ice and snow, Charlie encounters a burned-out, looted city of terrified citizens. Will he be able to save his mom?

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How much peanut butter do you have in your cupboard?
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Plot/Characters/Writing Style
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The residents of Harmony, New Hampshire are watching particularly vivid Northern Lights on New Year's Eve when all of the power suddenly goes out. Nothing works; no batteries, no back up generators, no cars, no flashlights. At first, people assume that the power will come back on, but it is very quickly apparent that this will not happen. Local survival enthusiast Bragg tries to buy all of the canned tuna and peanut butter at the local grocery with gold coins and isn't happy when the proprietor turns him down. Part time security office and school janitor Kingman realizes that people need some sort of direction and sense of optimism, and sets up help for the elderly and infirm. Bragg doesn't like that either, and eventually ends up setting fire to the grocery store and stealing firewood from the common stack. This puts Charlie in a bad position-- he and his mother have been trying to help Kingman, but his mother's medication for diabetes is running out, and since the pharmacy was burned down, he is worried about what will happen. He borrows skies and sets off through the terrible snow to Concord. He has some help along the way, but when he gets to the city, things are bad there. He eventually gets the medication, but when he returns home, things are even worse.
Good Points
Charlie is a very appealing character. He is worried about his mother right from the start, and doesn't take the delight in the power outage that the teenagers around him are taking. He knows that things will get bad, and starts to make preparations well in advance. He also recognizes that Kingman is a capable leader, even though others in the community make fun of him. His friend Gronk takes the situation less seriously, and is a good foil for Charlie.

Even Charlie's cross country trip through the snow to get medicine for his mother is planned as well as a teenager can plan such things. The fact that he does meet nice people when he runs into trouble injects a much needed ray of hope into the book. Charlie takes the chance to help Mr. Boncoeur, and is rewarded for his efforts. Mr. Rogers said that in any bad situation you should "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” It's nice to see this evidenced in a book where so many bad things are happening.

The Big Dark will appeal to readers who enjoy Gary Paulsen and Will Hobbs' outdoor adventure, but will also be popular with those who like Dystopian books like Walters' The Rule of Three, Pfeffer's Life as We Knew It, and Dashner's The Maze Runner series.

While I'm not generally a fan of Dystopian books or survival books, I thought that this book took a very realistic view of what might happen in the event of an unexpected power outage. Any book that makes me think seriously about stockpiling peanut butter, and reminds me that I should have a good selection of basic medicines on hand as well, is a book that I know is well written and gripping!
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