Stella loves the ritual of Family Film Night. Every Sunday, the lights are dimmed, popcorn popped, and then…Stella gets her phone out, brother Teddy is glued to his tablet, and Mum and Dad watch an arty film on TV. On this particular Sunday, as they’re enjoying their ‘separate things like a family,’ the unimaginable happens. Every single screen in the entire world just stops. The Day the Screens Went Blank by Danny Wallace invites us to join Stella and her family in the ensuing mayhem, as with civilisation collapsing around them, they embark on a road trip to rescue Gran (without satnav!)
Stella is our calm and sensible narrator in a world where the grown-ups are freaking out, the airports have shut, and the shops are taking only cash. As news of this strange phenomenon spreads from door to door, the family suddenly realise that poor Gran is on her own, hundreds of miles away. At least the car still works (for now) and here’s where the fun really starts, as the family drive cross-country to Gran’s house. As we head into rural territory, be prepared for farms, tractors, and manure, lots of manure.
Alongside the pastoral belly-laughs comes the unexpected gift of campfires, stargazing, and the visible relaxing of Dad’s shoulders. We wonder why he previously only had time to Skype Gran rather than visit her. Was it due to his very 21st century type of perpetual ‘busyness’? Maybe Gran isn’t the only family member in need of rescuing.
As well as being snort-inducingly funny, The Day the Screens Went Blank highlights our reliance on technology and how close we are to societal breakdown without it. There are comments on disinformation and a nod to our own lockdown travails, one of Gemma Correll’s fabulous illustrations depicting stockpiling shoppers eagerly prioritising toilet rolls. Note too the wryly poignant library scene. We know it as a place of salvation but do Stella’s parents?
A thought-provoking hoot.
The Day the Screens Went Blank by Danny Wallace is published by