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The White Darkness

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  3,607 Ratings  ·  669 Reviews
I have been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now--which is ridiculous, since he's been dead for ninety years. But look at it this way. In ninety years I'll be dead, too, and the age difference won't matter. Sym is not your average teenage girl. She is obsessed with the Antarctic and the brave, romantic figure of Captain Oates from Scott's doomed expedition to the ...more
Library Binding, 384 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by HarperTeen (first published September 1st 2005)
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Kwesi 章英狮
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abby Johnson
Jan 28, 2008 Abby Johnson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Abby by: Printz award winner
So many people have loved this book... I think it's just not my thing. After the death of her father, 14-year-old Symone, excruciatingly shy hearing-impaired geek with an imaginary friend, is whisked away on a surprise trip to Antarctica by her Uncle Victor. From the start you can sense that something's not right here. Victor's acting fishy, lying to Sym about their destination, stealing her mother's passport so she can't come with them... and things just get bleaker and bleaker as the journey g ...more
Nov 27, 2008 R.J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 07, 2009 McNeil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
A gorgeous book. Shocking when someone pure and innocent--not just because she is young--many of her peers are far more worldly-wise than she--is manipulated by those she trusts--she has no idea what is real and what is not. Her whole existence, the whole story she's been told is just based on other people's manipulation of the facts. I'm still not certain whether those who manipulated the facts were conscious that they were doing so. It is yet another great example of the ills of fanaticism, no ...more
Candice M (tinylibrarian)
Feb 18, 2008 Candice M (tinylibrarian) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: masochists, fans of Lars von Trier films
Shelves: award-winners
When I think about this book, all I want to do is sigh. Sigh because it was a frustrating read, sigh because of the main character's situation throughout most of the book, and sigh that it won the Printz.

I read it, and I read it fast. I stayed up all night to finish this mother. I was *so* worried about this girl's retarded fate that I couldn't sleep! I needed to find out what happened! So in that sense, yes, it was excellent. In the sense that the story traps you like you've gotten snowed in w
Mar 11, 2008 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I have a friend who says she can tell if she’ll love a movie with the first ten minutes. And I can often say the same for a book; I can tell I love it within the first twenty pages or so. But The White Darkness took me until page 73 to get really hooked. And then I couldn’t put it down. It’s about a teenage girl, Symone, who gets her dream vacation: a trip to Antarctica. She is obsessed with Antarctica and one of its brave explorers, Captain Oates from Scott’s doomed expedition to the South Pole ...more
Vivid, harrowing, and highly unusual. Sym is a strange sort of heroine: locked up in her own head, where she converses constantly with Titus Oates, the romantic and tragic army man of Scott's expedition to the Antarctic. Sam's Uncle Victor regularly assures her that she is not bright, not charming, but he still takes her along on the trip of a lifetime to the Antarctic. But Sym is not what Uncle Victor says, and neither is he. Or anyone, really.

Fascinating and strange, and very, VERY stressful!
A young girl named Symone is taken without her mother's permission by her "uncle" on a trip to the Antarctic. Uncle is obsessed with the idea of a world or worlds within the Earth and is convinced that the access portal to these worlds lies at the South Pole. Sym is a whole lot naive and completely too trusting of this uncle but as the story goes on she becomes more and more aware of how crazy her uncle is. The trip is dangerous with hazards you can't even imagine and is driven by the obsessed m ...more
Ben Babcock
I really am not an adventurous person. Moving to England—having never lived on my own before—aside, I’m not the sort of person who enjoys embarking on “expeditions”. I took a trip up to Edinburgh back in October, and that was adventurous enough for me for a few months. These days, a train to Norwich is about as much adventure as I can muster. I read National Geographic and watch the Discovery Channel and soak up all these stories of adventure and exploration vicariously—but I cannot imagine actu ...more
Apr 10, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 8th grade and up
"What! Whoa!" was the chorus running through my head as I read this highly unusual story, this year's Printz Award winner. Although it took a while to get going, it quickly morphed into a layered mystery, narrated by 14-year-old British girl Sym, who accompanies her Uncle Victor (and her imaginary friend, the Artic explorer "Titus" Oates) on a trip to Paris which turns into a trip to Antarctica (!!) and a survival story unlike any other. Pair with "Life As We Knew It" for two great survival-girl ...more
Jan 25, 2008 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this brilliantly crafted story of madness and despair comes the story of teenage Sym who is whisked away from her normal teenage anxieties to face the bleak desolation of Antarctica and her uncle's obsession. Sym is a normal British teen, unpopular boys and the butt of many jokes with her friends. Her father has died rather tragically, but Sym finds solace by insulating herself in a fictional world where her principal friend is an incarnation of Captain Lawerence Oates, who lead an ill-fated ...more
Feb 27, 2009 Julia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very good book from a literary standpoint. It is however, not a "fun" read. It is a Printz award winner for the best book of the year for young adults, and deservedly so.

It is a tale of a teen from England who gets taken on a surprise trip to Antartica with her uncle. Symone's (Sym) story quickly turns into a survival tale, as she deals with an increasingly manic uncle.

What helps Sym get through is her imaginary relationship with a long dead artic explorer. This character is more rea
14-year-old Symone Wates is more than a bit socially awkward (her obvious hearing aids don't help). But thanks to her obsession with the doomed Scott Antarctic Expedition, she's got a pretty solid relationship with Lawrence "Titus" Oates, a member of the team -- even if he does exist only in her head. When family friend "Uncle" Victor, who shares her obsession, takes Sym on a surprise trip to actual Antarctica, her knowledge of the geography and what it takes to survive will be put to the test a
Dec 07, 2008 Landismom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kid-lit
Really excellent YA novel about a girl who is obsessed with Antarctica, and the uncle who kidnaps her and takes her there.
Rebecca Ann
I loved this book...but I can see why you might either love or hate it. The conflict is multifaceted: a person, a landscape, and the main character's mind. All three of these aspects develop quite slowly, so if you need a faster-paced novel or a clear-cut villain it may not appeal to you. The book also has a lot of symbolic aspects and devices, maybe too many (Titus, the bound princess, the letters...etc). A lot of the plot stretches the limits of realism, so if you come into this looking for a ...more
Feb 02, 2009 Beth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Antarctic finatics
Recommended to Beth by: Printz awards
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
2008 Printz Award winner!

I'm going to echo several other reviews here: this is beautifully written, atmospheric, and engrossing, and yet it just didn't do it for me.

When Symone's generous uncle offers to whisk her and her mom away to Paris, Sym jumps at the chance--and when her mom's passport goes missing at the last moment, Sym looks forward to exploring Paris with Uncle Victor. But after one night, he reveals that the trip is bigger than Paris. They're going south. Very far south. Antarctica-s
Apr 21, 2008 Krista rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen-fiction
Fourteen year-old Sym seems to be trapped in her own mind, her deafness, shyness, and social naiveté make her an outcast at school. Her father's death has made her mother distant and invited her eclectic uncle into bring the family out of a financial burden. However, when her uncle, who feeds her love for all things about Antarctica, encourages the family to take a trip, Sym gets whisked away from her mother and thrown into a dangerous adventure in the icy continent with her uncle. His drive for ...more
N.T. Embe
Oct 15, 2014 N.T. Embe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who enjoy introverted main characters and strong, smart female leads.
Recommended to N.T. by: Rain Misoa

I'm a bit ill right now so I won't go into full detail regarding this book, but I will say that this book was a wonderful experience and hit very close to home on a lot of topics. Very, very close to home, considering what I've been going through recently. But the thing that really struck me was the absolute familiarity and comfort of the main character's relationship with the character in her head. Being someone who has been in constant communication with multiple characters in their head since
Gracie Classon
This was on the required reading list for YA Lit. This was the worst book I read all semester, and I'm sad that this is the last book on my list. I might have to squeeze another book into my schedule just to get the taste out of my mouth before the end of the semester. End on a good note. This book was long and boring. The author used 370 pages when 200 would have been fine. I kept waiting to get into it or to care at all for the story or the characters, but it just never happened. I started to ...more
Sarah Kampe
Apr 25, 2010 Sarah Kampe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: survival
It's sort of difficult to place this book. I give it the high rating of four stars mostly because of the writing involved, not for the plot or the cast of characters. Practically nothing was solved by the end; I'm sorry to admit that I actually do enjoy happy endings, even the bittersweet ones. I feel like I have to have some means of closure after i finish a book. At the end of the book Sym's uncle has been revealed to be a stark-raving mad man who is a murderer obsessed with a basically imposs ...more
Feb 13, 2015 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
White Darkness has the most amazing premise. Fourteen year old Sym travels with her uncle to the Antarctic on what should be the trip of a lifetime. It is indeed a trip that will never be forgotten. Her uncle is convinced that there is a hole in the Antarctic that leads to an inner world, proving the earth is a hollow shell. After they arrive at the base, her uncle sabotages the return plane and drugs everyone at the base so he can steal a snow machine and head towards the coordinates where he t ...more
Nov 23, 2016 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Teen Book Club selection
I suggested this book to my Teen Book Club because it had won the Printz Award for Young Adult Literature, and the story sounded exciting. What a thrill ride! The narrator, Sym, takes us along as she begins to realize that everything she knows about her life is wrong. I thought the characters in the beginning were interesting, and I wasn't quite sure how the book would work when, less than halfway through, Sym, her uncle Victor, and two others set off into the barrens of Antartica. But the journ ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrea Blythe
Mar 17, 2015 Andrea Blythe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is as bleak and beautiful as the continent upon which it is set. Every step of Sym's journey has this sense of disaster about it. As her "Uncle" takes her deeper and deeper into Antarctica in a desperate attempt to reach the entrance to Hollow Earth, there's this brutal sense of foreboding that this all is going to end in such a terrible way, while also this tendril of hope (about to snap any second) that maybe everything will be all right although you can't possibly see how. It's rat ...more
Symone is fourteen years old, hearing impaired and friendless. Sym is obsessed with Antarctica and even shares a “friendship” with the long, dead Titus Oates who was part of Robert Scott’s doomed Antarctica expedition in 1912. When, family friend, “Uncle” Victor takes her on a polar expedition to Antarctica she is thrilled and ignores all the signs that something is not quite right about the journey until it is too late. Victor is insane; obsessed with finding the entrance to Symmes Hole a mythi ...more
Ara Hanissian
This novel was weak in the beginning of the plot. It was slow in setting up for the more tense parts. However, it was great at foreshadowing. Little details that seemed unnecessary gained tenfold significance towards the end. Something at the end of the novel, I found very strange was that (view spoiler) That took away from the immersion. I expected the last lines of the novel to be much more profound. I t ...more
May 17, 2012 Coralie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a young adult book. Sym is a teenaged girl from England. She has a hearing loss and is very shy. She's picked on quite a bit in school. She lives with her mother and uncle. Her father is dead. Money in the family is tight, so Sym is surprised when her uncle suggests a trip to Paris. When she arrives in Paris with her uncle, she learns that their real destination is Antarctica. Things get really intense when the tour group they are part of arrives in Antarctica and strange things start ...more
Paula Soper
Jul 06, 2016 Paula Soper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, 2016
I can't remember why I originally picked up this book. Was it in the ALAN book box? Anyway, I loved it years ago. It received both the Printz Award. Maybe THAT'S why I read it. I went through a spell when I was reading the Printz award winners.

I love Sym. She is 14, naieve, curious, self-depreciating. She loves Antarctica (which McCaughrean describes beautifully). She is too trusting, but she has no strong, male role model. In fact, now that I think of it, there are no strong males in the book a
Jan 31, 2009 Tiff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, printz, lchs
Although I think perhaps this book was little too long, I can see why it won the Printz award last year. There were portions of this book where the writing was just descriptive and reminded me of some passages written by Gary D. Schmidt. The story was intense, mysterious, and original.

I'd be interested to see how high school students would react to this book, because it did take me quite a long time to finish. I think it may be for more mature readers, or patient r
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Solano County Lib...: The White Darkness 1 6 Dec 10, 2011 03:15PM  
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Geraldine McCaughrean was born in 1951 and brought up in North London. She studied at Christ Church College of Education, Canterbury and worked in a London publishing house for 10 years before becoming a full-time writer in 1988. She has written over 120 books, 50 short plays for schools, and a radio play.

Her adult novels include Fires’ Astonishment (1990) and The Ideal Wife (1997), but she is bes
More about Geraldine McCaughrean...

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“It's true: Everyone needs a reason to stay alive -- someone who justifies your existence. Someone who loves you. Not beyond all reason. Just loves you. Even just shows an interest. Even someone who doesn't exist, or isn't yours. No, no! They don't even have to love you! They just have to be there to love! Target for your arrows. Magnetic Pole to drag on your compass needle and stop it spinning and tell you where you're heading and...Someone to soak up all the yearning. That's what I think.” 26 likes
“He is everything, everything, everything I ever admired and wanted and couldn't have. He is everything I needed and couldn't find in real life. Of course he is. That's why I invented him.” 15 likes
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