The Darkness Outside Us

The Darkness Outside UsThe Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer
Narrator: James Fouhey
Published by Katherine Tegen Books
Published on 1 June 2021
Genres: Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Source: my local library
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RRP: $34.99
3 Stars

Two boys, alone in space. Sworn enemies sent on the same rescue mission.

Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor with no memory of a launch. There’s more that doesn’t add up: evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the ship’s operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded himself away. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making his mission succeed—not when he’s rescuing his own sister.

In order to survive the ship’s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust each other . . . especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive.

This is a sci-fi romance between two teen boys who are on a deep space rescue mission.

However, since the most central plot point – the fact that they are two boys – doesn’t make sense to me, and the reasons provided as to WHY it has to be two boys, especially in the context of the overall story, doesn’t make sense to me, I wasn’t really able to fully enjoy this as much as I wanted to.

Let me just preface this by saying there is no reason why these characters are children.

The author tries to explain that young people are needed because of something to do with radiation – maybe they resist it better, recover better, or will somehow live longer. I listened to this on audio so I can’t just go back and check, but I believe they may have been the reasons.

But that one argument as to why children are needed instead of adults (radiation resistance) is also destroyed by the very plot it claims to support.

There is absolutely no reason why these character can’t be in their early twenties, and the story would actually make much more sense if they were. They are both experienced lovers, they neither seek nor need guidance from family, they are completely self-assured, mature, and confident. For any reason why someone would choose to write a YA book, none of that applies in this book. These characters have zero characteristics of teenagers. Kodiak in particular was always described in very grown up terms: his body is always described in comparative terms of being already grown, complete with stubble to rival any mountain man. I mean, have you SEEN seventeen year old boys? They are literally children.

In fact, I think the only reason these characters are 17 year olds is so that this book can be marketed toward the YA market. But even with that in mind, I really do think that this book is mismarketed. However, they’ve all done it on purpose, so I’m stumped.

Also, making both characters men was given a very flimsy reason that also doesn’t make sense.

If the authorities were legitimately worried about babies on the spacecraft, they should have picked 2 women instead of two men. View Spoiler » Like, you need two men so there are no babies. That argument is just as strong with two women, and makes better sense that way.

I feel that this was too much of an author insertion. Ambrose is the waif-like seventeen year old foiled against Kodiak’s masculine manliness. There are literally a thousand tasks to complete on this ship, and we only ever see Ambrose do one of them: the comparatively ‘easy’ hacking (I say easy not because I believe hacking in itself is easy, but because it’s easy to describe the characters’ actions when you don’t really know what’s involved). In comparison, Ambrose never got to do anything that would require any actual knowledge of space, like spacewalking, so we didn’t get to see it from his point of view. All of the more intricate/knowledgeable tasks were left up to Kodiak, who doesn’t get a point of view.

OK, now that I’ve got all of that off my chest (thank you if you’re still reading) I would like to complete this review by saying that the writing was engaging, the plot was interesting, I really liked the mystery aspect which made me want to keep going to find out all the big secrets (although I do feel that I cracked it pretty early on and was just looking for confirmations), and the audiobook narrator was especially good. Even more so when he did an impersonation of some fictional popstar that was incredibly sexy. I really liked the approach to the romance and I was particularly intrigued by watching the stand-offish character (Kodiak) falling in love with the soft cinnamon roll (Ambrose). I loved watched his walls break down, because I felt like they were so very different.

Would I ever re-read this book? Unlikely. Would I recommend it to teens? I absolutely would recommend it to LGBTQ+ teens, on the basis that the book is set in the future where all sexualities are treated as normal, which is what our world should be like today, and also due to what I, as someone who is not a member of the LGBTQ+ community and is by no means an expert and has done absolutely zero research to back up this claim, perceive to be a lack (comparatively) of queer books that are not about coming out. I would also recommend it to adults who enjoy space mysteries that don’t delve too deep into the sci-fi aspects. Otherwise I’m afraid I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted to and I am left with a bit of disappointment upon finishing.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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