Review #244 // In the Red – Christopher Swiedler

In the RedMichael Prasad is tired of everyone telling him to stay inside. Ever since he was diagnosed with suit anxiety, he’s been kept inside the Mars colony while the rest of kids his age travel outside. When he sets out to prove everyone wrong with his best friend Lilith, a solar flare knocks out the magnetic field that blocks the sun’s radiation. Stranded outside, Michael and Lilith have to survive miles from home with just their suits, few supplies, and their minds.

Why this book?: I was shelving at my library when I saw this book hidden among the junior fiction. It sounded like a middle grade The Martian, which I loved.

When I first started this book, my initial thought of it sounding like a middle grade The Martian proved to be true. At first glance, it’s a lower stakes survival story that takes place on Mars following two kids, which, really, is essentially what The Martian is, except the colony is a LOT further away for Mark Watney. However, the further I got into this story, the more I realized that just because it was middle grade and the kids had a colony to get to does NOT mean that it’s lower stakes. It was still very much high stakes and there were quite a few twists in the story that I hadn’t been expecting. It went from “Oh, yeah, they can survive easily if they can just make it to the station” to “They are literally going to die in the next five minutes.” Swiedler expertly brought the reader along, slowly cranking up the stakes higher and higher. Right when you thought they made it home free, something else popped up that threw the kids into another rush for their lives.

Besides the interesting plot, what really drew me in and kept me reading was the characters. Michael was the stereotypical smart kid that everyone underestimates, especially since he had suit anxiety. And while my main gripe with the book was how anxiety was spoken about, it was still amazing reading Michael overcoming his struggles in order to protect the people he cares about. I especially enjoyed the banter between Michael and Lilith, how she kept pushing him to do his best, but also allowed him the space to talk about what he was struggling with. Lilith was more of a trouble-making character, which was greatly at odds with Michael. But they still clicked surprisingly well, with Michael being the voice of reason while Lilith used his reasoning to continue pushing him forward. I loved how their relationship was introduced, and I loved how it developed naturally through the rest of the narrative.

Final Rating: ★★★★☆


In The Red is an incredibly solid book that really holds up to my initial belief that it’s a MG The Martian. Both have high stakes, both have shocking twists and turns, and both are surprisingly funny. I really loved the characters and how everything was naturally brought up. Sometimes twists can feel so oddly out of place, but there was a solid build-up and explanation behind everything that happened. I never felt lost or like I was missing something (which I often did while reading The Martian–I’m terrible at math and science, so everything had to be explained to me).

Would I Recommend?

Did you love The Martian? Do you like high stakes science fiction adventures? Then I would definitely recommend this one. It was a fun, quick read that I feel like a lot of people would enjoy if they gave it the chance.

In the Red

Additional Information:

Published: March 24th, 2020

Publisher: HarperCollins

Page Count: 288

Genre: Science Fiction/Middle Grade

Synopsis: via Goodreads

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.

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