For some bizarre reason, I’ve recently gotten into the MTV show Catfish. Basically, it’s a documentary show where the hosts help people track down someone who they have met or fallen in love with online. The catch—they have never met in person (and many times, think that something seems fishy). 


Now when I say “gotten into”’s basically on in the background while I do other things, but sometimes I find myself more invested in some of the stories than I really care to admit—like the one that’s on now about a couple who has chatted online for five years, but one has never sent a picture the entire course of the relationship. Of course we find out later that the other person has never let her online crush know that she has a two-year-old child.


But I was also thinking about how Catfish reminds me of The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer. It’s not that Ambrose, representing the Fédération on his ship Endeavor, and Kodiak, representing Dimokratía on his ship called the Aurora, aren’t mysterious strangers to each other, but it’s more that their mission—and their entire existences—are mysteries to even them. Just like on Catfish, they end up finding out that everything they have trusted as the truth isn’t the truth at all.


After multiple world wars, Ambrose and Kodiak find their identical ships paired together in an attempt to rescue Ambrose’s older sister Minerva Cusk, whose distress signal is launched after her ship crash lands on Titan (one of the moons of Saturn), on a mission to make the moon an inhabitable place for humans. 


Much like A Complicated Love Story Set in Space, which I wrote about here, Ambrose, because of an accident, has no memory of how he got on the ship, and the ship’s operating system speaks to him in a voice he’s familiar with—his mother’s.)


Ambrose and Kodiak soon discover they must work together to accomplish their mission, despite the strained history between their two countries and their vastly different upbringings. They also find themselves drawn to each other along with discovering everything around them, including themselves, isn’t what they have believed to be true. 


You are a copy.

Minerva Cusk died after she landed on Titan. There was no distress beacon.

You are headed somewhere far from Earth, but OS is blocked from telling you where.

Unless you are the final clones, you will die on your voyage” (258).


That is some Catfish-level secret discovery—but, much like on Catfish, it also isn’t the whole story. There is so much still out there (and in this case, it’s out there on a ship hurtling through space).

The Darkness Outside Us is filled with suspense, delightful doses of humor, charm, and is pretty much another love story set in space that forces us to question whether we ever really know who we are.


Have students practice journaling and create their own "captain's log" by downloading the lesson below!



Michael Méndez Guevara is a former high school journalism and English teacher who spent his time in the classroom helping students see themselves as writers and fall in love with reading through the world of young adult literature. As an educational sales consultant with Perfection Learning®, Michael works with teachers and schools on improving their literacy instruction and providing resources to help students achieve academic success. He has taught elementary school, middle school, and high school and has worked as a district level leader and served on the Texas state standards revision committee that developed the state’s current literacy standards. He is the father of three adult sons, the youngest a student at the University of Kansas—Rock Chalk! Michael is working on a professional development book for literacy educators and currently has agents reading the manuscript of his young adult novel, The Closest Thing to a Normal Life. When he's not reading, writing, or running, Michael is fully committed to watching as much Law & Order as possible.