The Darkest Path

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Civil Society
Fiction Literature
Philanthropic Literature
Book Title: The Darkest Path / Author: Jeff Hirsch This literature guide was written by teens for teens to accompany the reading of this "resilience literature." The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions to guide reading comprehension and promote dialogue about issues of resilience, trust, independence, family, and community. This guide was written as an assignment in Mrs. Gresham's 11th grade literature class, and includes suggestions for community engagement.

Reading Level: Ages 12-17

This literature guide was created as part of an 11th grade project at Castle Park High School in Indiana. The students chose the book to read, produced a video book talk (link below) and wrote the following questions and project ideas to stimulate thought and action about real issues.

Book Talk for The Darkest Path



  1. Have you ever wanted to run away? If you wanted to, why?
  2. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to act as caretaker for someone?
  3. Do you know of an instance where a figure of authority has been hateful toward you? Explain what happened.
  4. How far would you go to see your family in the midst of a civil war?


There are always arguments between brothers and sisters, whether for a simple reason or for tough decisions. Write about a time when you argued with your brother, sister, or anyone that is really close to you. Explain what you did and how you resolved the conflict.

During Reading



  1. What happened after Callum left The Glorious Path?
  2. If Grey hadn’t died, what might the ending have been?
  3. Based from your reading, would you consider Quarles an antagonist or a protagonist?  Support your answer with a quote.
  4. Even though Wade helps Callum by giving him food and shelter, why does he want to turn Cal to Path armies?
  5. If you were in Cal’s position, would you leave The Glorious Path? Why?

Ch 14-20

  1. How do Natalie and Callum help each other?
  2. How is Callum similar to his dog, Bear?
  3. What is Natalie’s motivation? Why does she want to help people of Wyoming?
  4. How does Nat react when Alec says he has a personal body guard to protect him? Support your answer with a quote from the book.
  5. How would the ending be if Callum actually made it to the plane?

Ch 21-28

  1. Describe Nathan Hill. What’s his big plan?
  2. Compare James from beginning of the story to James at the end. How has he gotten different?
  3. Why does Nat want to kill Nathan Hill? What do we learn about her parents?
  4. Why does Cal save Nathan Hill’s life even though he hates The Glorious Path?
  5. After finally arriving in New York, what is it that makes Cal and James so upset?


  1. The Glorious Path Army is similar to Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Read about how the charity Invisible Children organized a social media movement to stop Joseph Kony in April 2012.
  2. Have you ever made friends at first sight, just like Nat and Callum?
  3. How is U.S. Civil War of 1860s similar to the civil war in the book The Darkest Path?
  4. Natalie helps her home town by getting a supply truck, even when the country is at war. Have you done something selfless that was helpful toward other people? Explain what you did.
  5. Do you have one close friend that you trust and count on? How far would you go with them even though your life is on the line?

After Reading


  1. How bad would you feel for going so far nothing? Explain what you did.
  2. Grey saved Callum’s life by lying to the guards. Would you risk your life just like Grey did for someone else? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think Cal made the right decision by leaving the Glorious Path? Explain why or why not.
  4. If you were in Cal’s position, would you take the dog with you even though it is helpless?


  1. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is similar to The Darkest Path because the both involve a young male character trying to survive by himself. Is The Darkest Path a survival story?
  2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Stand by Stephen King are both similar to the The Darkest Path because they are set in a post-apocalyptic world. What do we learn from reading this type of fiction?


  1. Do fundraising activities for abandoned and abused animals.
  2. Evaluate 5 choices made by characters in the book and how the story would change if each decision would have been different.
  3. Call the local animal shelter and ask what their needs are to help rescued animals.