Rating: 4 pints of blood
I find the cover very effective. It makes me stop to look at it, and catches my attention, and if it can do that, the cover art has done its job. The sparse white stands out from the pastels or vivid reds and blacks that make up the majority of YA covers, and the intensity of the young woman breaking through, breaking out from the inside (O I SEE WAT U DID THER) piques my interest. Why is she so intense? What is she breaking away from? I must read the book and find out!
All Trella's life, she's been one of the "Lowers," one of the overpopulated hordes in the lower levels designated to clean and maintain the pipes for the benefit of the Uppers. She's earned a reputation as the stuck-up Queen of the Pipes for her tendancy to hide in the pipes to get a rare bit of privacy from the rest of the Lowers.
When Cog, her best and only friend, requests she see the strange prophet who is spreading tales of a fabled Outside, a place beyond the pipes and overpopulation, Trella dismisses it as a fantasy and goes along only so she can prove the prophet wrong and protect Cog from the danger of fruitless hope. This prophet, however, is different from the others who spread useless rumours of freedom, and he even manages to spur Trella into reluctant action, though she's still determined to prove he's a fraud.
The chain of events lands Trella in a lot of trouble with the authorities, who seem to be willing to do anything to hide the bits of information she's uncovering. On top of that, the formerly unpopular Queen of the Pipes finds herself the centre of popularity among the Lowers, most of whom believe in what she's doing, believe that she can find the Outside and the key to their freedom. If, that is, she can dodge the authorities long enough to survive.
One of the big themes to Inside Out is overcoming pre-conceptions. All her life, Trella has held a certain viewpoint, based on the information she was given, and she spends most of the book discovering that maybe not everything is quite as she believed it was. She's not the only one; most of the people she encounters, who help her in her efforts to find the Outside find their own preconceived notions challenged, and what's really exciting about this is that Trella and the others don't necessarily accept the new information easily. This isn't a case of "oh, you say vampires and werewolves are real and I'm destined to be the most powerful half-breed of the two ever? Okay, cool." This is the story of a strong and stubborn young woman who doesn't find it easy to change her thinking and change her ways, even when she realizes she was perhaps wrong. It was a wonderfully realistic depiction, and it brought a whole new dimension to the story and the characters.
Trella is a wonderful character, stubborn and independent with a tendancy to selfishness. In other words, she comes across as someone real, someone you could know or perhaps even someone you could be. She's surrounded by a cast of characters as realistically flawed as she is, characters you can root for and desperately vouch to survive and triumph when peril shows up.
The plot unfurls one tantalizing peek at a time, with nothing coming easily to Trella and her friends. It's equal parts adventure and mystery, an addictive combination that may well keep you up late at night. Most of the mystery parts I was able to predict, but the characterization and the adventure/danger that kept the welfare of some of the characters in question meant I was unable to put the thing down.
Inside Out will be available in mass market paperback on April 1. My copy was generously provided for me by the author.