Cat Conner's Reviews > The White Darkness

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
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's review
May 25, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: young-adult-literature-reviews

Sym is not an ordinary girl. In fact, she's a little bit crazy. Sym lives in England and doesn't quite seem to enjoy her life or fit into her social circle. Thus, when her uncle offers to take her to Paris, she jumps right on the chance. Sym's mother is supposed to come, but mysteriously loses her passport. Sym's uncle takes advantage of her mother's absence by stealing her away on a journey to Antarctica, a long time obsession of Sym's. The journey is accompanied by various characters, including Sym's imaginary friend Titus Oates, based on the real-life fictional explorer. Sym uses her relationship with Titus to explore the Antarctic and the haunting secrets that await her there.
I hated this book. I got 1/3 of the way in and stopped reading it because of the lack of an interesting protagonist and laborious description of the Antarctic landscape; the prospect of finishing it was painful, but I forged on. I have nothing in common with Sym or her desire to run away from the world by acting like an ignorant child. From the beginning, Sym's uncle is a questionable character and she lets him lead her on because she is so naive. She would rather be stuck in fantasy land with Titus than face up to the tragedies around her, and that was just annoying due to how severe her ignorance was. Also, her dialogue and relationship with Titus made Sym completely unattractive. Her voice did not make me see what was so compelling about such an imaginary friend.
Even more than Sym's perspective, I hated the setting. I have no interest in Antarctica or exploration and McCaughrean's endless descriptions of the frozen tundra did nothing to help me learn about or gain interest in a place that is supposed to be so fascinating. I just wanted the details to end. I felt like, "I get it. It's white."
If an author doesn't hook you by the first few pages, he or she is doing something wrong. And I certainly shouldn't have to wait a third of the book to find out if I'm interested. Though "The White Darkness" may bring up controversial issues like mental abuse and kidnapping, other, better books explore these topics without boring or annoying the reader to death.

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