inthered.jpgEarthlings are only in the planning stages to eventually send humans to Mars. What will it be like when a colony is set up there for the selected few to work and live? IN THE RED is set in the future when this has already happened.

Twelve-year-old Michael lives there with his parents and an older brother. He loves and understands science better than most. His best friend is a girl, Lilith, and she pushes him to explore the planet with her. Things go terribly wrong.

The pace is frantic and full of surprises. Michael has a tendency toward panic attacks—bad enough on Earth but even more so with the many challenges Mars brings. Science Fiction titles for middle grade don’t come along too often and this title certainly fills the void.



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.


IN THE RED by Christopher Swiedler

  1. The inclusion of panic attacks, something more than a few kids can relate to, was a welcome interlude to the plot. Michael discovers how to better handle his untimely attacks with the help of family and his best friend.
  2. Details of life on Mars was fascinating from traveling across its’ surface to basics of taking a breath and eating.
  3. The adolescent brain often works in a do now think later mode. A great discussion could take place with young readers as to how delaying impulsive decisions and thinking through situations first is usually a better plan.
  4. The tension as to whether these two kids will survive had me in one of those fast reading frenzies. I had to find out if they were going to make it, and guess what? No spoilers here.
  5. A good fit for any middle grader or adult who love science fiction.


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. (For more visit his web site)


I received an ARC of IN THE RED for my honest feedback. Comments are welcome below!


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews, New Release, Science Fiction and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to IN THE RED

  1. Natalie Aguirre says:

    This sounds like a great story. There aren’t enough science fiction books for middle graders. And I agree that showing Michael dealing with panic attacks is a plus too. Good to show us all how to deal with them.

  2. What a thrilling read for teens. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more books imagined on Mars — so many unknowns. This book has a lot of tension. And, like you, I like the inclusion of panic attacks because so many young people/adults have them. Great share today.

  3. Andrea Mack says:

    Oooh, this one sounds really good! Even though I’m not a big sci fi reader, I do seem to be drawn to stories about Mars. Putting it on my to-read list!!

  4. “Delaying impulsive decisions”. Yep. When I read this, I sort of wanted to admonish the characters. Such bad ideas, but a good read!

  5. Danielle Hammelef says:

    I can’t wait to read this–it sounds so good.

  6. Hmm. Mars sounds like a great setting. Not sure I’d be able to handle the two kids who decide to go out there even after they know they shouldn’t! (Now, would kid-Maria still feel the same? Probably. I wasn’t a rule-breaker!)

  7. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    This sounds like such an exciting book! Something tells me that living on Mars while prone to panic attacks is probably not an ideal situation—just the idea of living on a planet with no oxygen is enough to make me quite anxious! Thanks for the great review!

  8. This sounds like a great book for kids. The idea of living on Mars is not appealing to me, but I think kids will like the adventure. Also, I’ve had students with panic attacks and this would be a good for kids who suffer with those. And I really like the delaying impulsive decisions suggestion (had a few of those with my Kiddo when she was about that age).

  9. Panic attacks are a nice touch here. I don’t read SciFi as a general rule, but this one sounds great. Thanks for your review.

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