The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer

“The stars!

All those nuclear explosions sending out light waves, a very few of whose fate is to dissipate on my retinas. I look into the voids in between, a nothingness more absolute than any vacuum on Earth. In space, without any atmosphere to cloud my view, even that void resolves into more distant pricks of light.

Nowhere is truly empty. The thought makes me feel lavishly alone. Somehow, space is so deeply melancholy that it’s not at all sad, like a note so low it ceases to sound. Even my sorrow about my insignificance is insignificant.”

– Eliot Schrefer, “The Darkness Outside Us”


I’m a bit behind where I want to be in my reading and reviewing this month, so enjoy a favorite from last year while I play catch up on my reading and also plan for Lent. This one didn’t get the love it deserved at publication time. It’s one of the best; right up there with They Both Die at the End, but with a more satisfying ending by far. The middle of this book will hit you like a two ton heavy thing.

The Darkness Outside Us is not a cutesy space rom-com. It’s a travesty that some publishers have marketed it that way. It’s not cutesy. It’s not a rom-com. It’s deep and it’s dark.

Here’s the synopsis from the publisher:

“Two boys, alone in space.

After the first settler on Titan trips her distress signal, neither remaining country on Earth can afford to scramble a rescue of its own, and so two sworn enemies are installed in the same spaceship.

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 one another… especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive. “

There’s hints at how dark this gets in the synopsis, and you’re obviously getting a warning from me, but this book is one that you won’t believe until it hits you.

Don’t let me scare you from reading it though. It’s not a scary kind of book. It’s just one with more gravitas than your typical book.

I adored Ambrose’s curiosity, his earnestness, and his capacity for hope. And I fell in love with Kodiak’s determination, his capacity for sheltering his more naïve comrade, and his introspective and introverted nature. The true loneliness of their circumstances, the fact that they only have one another to rely on, does not lessen the fact that they choose to love one another and they chose each other time and time again.

This book made me feel all the things. I sobbed. I cheered. And I’ll read it again.

“Insanity used to be a stranger that lived on the other side of the world. Now it’s moved next door. It’s only a matter of time until it becomes shipmate, lover, self.”

– Eliot Schrefer, “The Darkness Outside Us”


  • Strong emotional pulls
  • Wonderful characters, even the ship’s operating system is a fully rounded character with a “personality”
  • A mystery that will keep you (and our beloved boys) guessing and hitting obstacles at every turn


  • The book was mismarketed and you’ll have to put away anything you might have heard about it being cutesy.
  • The ending is a bit abrupt and two dimensional compared to the rest of the book, but I needed it, so it didn’t diminish my personal experience with the book.


  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Intimacy is the only shield against insanity. Intimacy, not knowledge. Intimacy, not power.”

– Eliot Schrefer, “The Darkness Outside Us”

Recommended For:

  • the rainbow mafia – this is a book where there is NO stigma or shame for being gay, in fact it’s what’s expected for the characters
  • fans of Adam Silvera
  • anyone wanting a deep dive into what it means to be human, what true loneliness, what it means to hope, and what it means to love

Books to Read if You Loved The Darkness Outside Us:

Let’s Discuss! (Pick a question and drop a comment with your reply!)

  • If there is no one else to choose to love, does that lessen the love that is chosen?
  • Can books for teenagers be about intensely dark subjects or should those be marketed solely to adults?
  • How does the fact that the main characters are queer change this story? How would it be different if they were both straight? How would it be different if they were both straight and one of the main characters were female?

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