Craig Etchison
Journey Into Darkness by Craig Etchison

Samantha is a high school junior who has just begun dating the
boy of her dreams when her country is attacked by enemy soldiers.
Because she is separated from her family at the outset, she must
make a long, dangerous journey in hopes of rendezvousing with
her family. Through Sam’s eyes, the reader sees the many faces
of war, particularly in terms of civilian suffering. She quickly learns
that her history books hardly touched the realities of war. Sam also
learns that she has far greater resources, resiliency, and
perseverance than she ever imagined, including a deep
compassion for those who suffer.
The cost of war is not only the lives of the soldiers, but the
battlefield that consumes the land around them. "Journey into
Darkness" follows high school junior Samantha as a break out of
war interrupts her life and drives her from her family. Crossing the
battlefield, she quickly learns the true price of war and wonders if
she is yet done paying the cost yet. "Journey into Darkness" is a
profound read on the toll of warfare, recommended for young
adults age 15 and up.
                                                                         Midwest Book Review
From Kirkus Reviews

In Etchison’s novel, a 17-year-old girl faces the ultimate test of survival when her nation goes to war.

Samantha “Sam” Riggleman seems to have a bright future ahead of her. A junior in high school, she’s excited to graduate soon, and
she’s thrilled that Brandon, the boy she has long admired, finally asked her out. Brandon is finishing high school and has plans to go
to college, but his and Sam’s dreams are dashed when the president of their fictional country declares war. Young men must enlist to
help the war effort (the narrative uses clichés like: “Our only hope is our children”); even though Brandon hates the violence, he doesn’t
want to be perceived as a coward, so he decides to defend his country. Sam fears for Brandon’s life, especially since a former
classmate was killed after he joined the service. Her understandable worries are only intensified when an enemy attack forces her to
flee with Brandon’s family instead of her own. Desperately trying to escape the bombing, Sam and her friend Meg run to safety, but
Brandon and his parents are killed. Sam witnesses the devastation of war and loss firsthand, but she must leave the bodies behind
and continue on if she hopes to have any chance of surviving. At times, the dialogue is unrealistic for a 17-year-old girl. Circumstances
cause her to grow up quickly, but the way she talks is improbably stiff, and the prose often comes across as an adult narrator
declaring that war is unnecessary, rather than a teenager showing the reader why war is not the answer. Sam is surrounded by
fatalities and destruction as she walks miles in search of her family and safety. As she tries to overcome the horrors of war, the smells
of death and almost being raped by men from the enemy’s army, she encounters different survivors along the way, including three
young children whose parents were killed, whom she takes under her wing. Her maternal instinct toward the children and her
commitment to them are admirable, albeit a bit over-the-top for someone of her age. Sam’s fear and desperation are convincing,
though the intense subject matter might be overwhelming for younger adolescents. Her journey reaches an unsettling, abrupt
conclusion.

The repetitive anti-war sentiments become tiresome, but the harsh realities of battle from a young citizen’s perspective will be eye-
opening, especially for young-adult readers.