Published by HarperCollins on March 24, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Action & Adventure
Cover Artist: Brian Edward Miller
My content rating: MG (Depicts anxiety and panic attacks; Portrays a death)
A harrowing, pulse-pounding race for survival that New York Times bestselling author D. J. MacHale says “will leave you breathless.”
Michael Prasad knows he shouldn’t go out on the Mars surface alone. It’s dangerous. His parents have forbidden it. And the anxiety he feels almost every time he puts on a spacesuit makes it nearly impossible for him to leave the safety of the colony.
But when his best friend, Lilith, suggests they sneak out one night, he can’t resist the chance to prove everyone—including himself—wrong.
As the two ride along the Mars surface in a stolen rover, miles from the colony, a massive solar flare hits the planet, knocking out power, communication, and navigation systems, and the magnetic field that protects the planet from the sun’s deadly radiation.
Stranded hours from home with an already limited supply of food, water, and air, Michael and Lilith must risk everything if they’re to get back to the colony alive.
You know those awesome survival books where someone gets stuck on a mountain somewhere and barely makes it out alive? Well, this is that, but on MARS! If that doesn’t sound cool to you, you’re obviously not reading it right. Go back and try again. (I was going to write a bite-sized review for this, but I just had too many things to say!)
Seriously, though, this book was fantastic! I loved every heart-stopping moment of action. Lately, I’ve been struggling to read, but I absolutely flew through this book. Not only does the adventure aspect of the book keep you on your toes, but Michael’s personal story is also incredibly compelling and makes you want to keep reading. Michael suffers from panic attacks, which have kept him from his dream of following in his father’s and brother’s footsteps in becoming a part of the Rescue Service, which protects the public from the many dangers of Mars. He feels like a failure because of his condition, like he’s let everyone in his life down. Panic attacks would be incredibly difficult in any circumstances, but on the surface of Mars they can be life-threatening. Michael’s personal journey to understand himself and how to handle his attacks kept me turning the pages just as much as the action did.
Reasons kids will love this book:
- Mars! – Any kid who’s interested in space will absolutely love this!! The book is obviously well-researched (loved the author notes at the end of the book), and it gives a great sense of what it would actually be like to live on Mars.
- Science – There’s tons of science and math packed into this book, and somehow Swiedler managed to incorporate it all without slowing the story down (or feeling like he’s throwing boring facts at us).
- Anxiety/panic attacks – Kids who suffer from anxiety will appreciate Michael’s story of working past his condition (even if he can’t cure it). The book describes his feelings and physical symptoms in depth, which I really appreciated.
- A touch of romance – There are hints of romance between Michael and Lilith, and I think Swiedler does a fantastic job balancing this. He gives just enough to give kids who love the idea of romance something to look forward to, but it’s not a huge aspect of the book (so kids who still aren’t interested at all won’t be put off).
A couple of trigger warnings:
- Kids who are sensitive to reading about panic attacks might need to skip this if they are in danger of feeling triggered.
- There is a death in the book that might be difficult for some kids to process.
In the Red is a high-octane survival story, full of daring and danger handled with sensitivity and smarts! I highly recommend it!!
***Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Christopher Swiedler is an author and software engineer who lives with his wife and three children in California, where they’re under constant threat from earthquakes, tsunamis, and the occasional Martian dust storm. His goal in life is to win the Newbery Honor (not the medal itself) because he believes being a runner-up builds good character. He is represented by Bridget Smith of JABberwocky Literary Agency. His debut novel, IN THE RED, was published by HarperCollins in March 2020.
Check out cover illustrator Brian Edward Miller’s cool Mars (and other) illustrations on Instagram!