Publisher: Harlequin Teen, 2011
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3 1/2 pints of blood
This cover is... ok. There's nothing hideous going on here, but it's not really screaming for my attention in a good way, either. The composition here is great, and makes the cover more interesting to look at than if the silhouettes were crouching right in the centre. You know what, though? I really like the UK cover so much better:
Oh, hey, this is sci-fi! And look! Action! Suspense! Random abuse of exclamation points! (Alright, that last one might just be me.) Honestly, I think one of the reasons this version appeals to me so much more is that we can see the protagonist actually doing something. She's got something at stake, and conflict, and she's got to get her little posterior into gear or else bad things will happen. The first cover, on the other hand, is pretty passive, and while the concept matches the first book much better, it's just kind of... sleepy looking.
And yes, this is the sequel to last year's Inside Out, and you really do need to have read the first one to get much out of this one. There are bite-sized explanations for what's going on, but without all the history of who Trella is and where she's come from, you'd be missing a lot. Besides, I really liked the first book, so it's not like I'm sending you some sort of punishment by telling you to get your paws on that one first.
Now that Trella's Team Sheep has beaten out the ruling Travas and removed them from power, the people of Inside have to figure out how to rule themselves. The leaders of the rebellion have formed a committee to try and run things, but most of what they do seems to involve talking. Lots and lots of talking, which never actually resolves anything or makes decisions. Things on the Inside are falling apart as the Lowers start leaving their menial jobs, fed up with doing all the work, and the Uppers refuse to dirty their hands with anything more strenuous than paperwork. The "us against them" mentality cultivated by the Travas is as strong as ever, and if they can't figure out a way to get everyone working together, life Inside will fall to pieces.
Trella has no interest in leading anyone, but because of her role in the rebellion, people keep insisting she do things like attend meetings and solve problems. She'd really rather be off exploring or trying to spend time with her boyfriend, but with so many demands on her time she really doesn't have a chance to do much of anything.
The problems of Inside might be more than Trella and the committee are able to deal with, though, especially once they discover someone is trying to take over from the Outside. These Outsiders have anything but benevolence in plan, and with the Insiders so fractured, there isn't really any hope of trying to keep them from taking over and endangering or killing everyone, is there?
Before I go ahead and dig in, I'd like to note what an interesting time it is for this particular story to come out. With everything that's been going on in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, there's been a lot of governments being overthrown and being rebuilt. A big part of Outside In focuses on what happens after the revolution, when the people have won and everything needs to be restructured. Finding a system to replace the one they've torn down isn't easy, though, and having a story with that kind of focus being released right around the same time so many countries are very publically facing the same dilemma is... well, it could be either a good thing or a bad thing, and I guess which it is will depend on your point of view.
Why yes, I do realize release dates are set far, far in advance and therefore this timing is totally coincidental. You can't deny that this particular coincidence is an interesting one, though.
With that out of the way, let's dig into the book itself, shall we?
I like Trella a lot. I think she's an interesting and relatable protagonist, a strong young woman plagued with insecurities just like the rest of us. She's a reluctant hero, someone who would much rather just be free to live her life than have to deal with the big picture. She's stubborn and occasionally single-minded and just wonderfully flawed in a very real way. I think a big part of the reason I enjoy reading these books is because I enjoy spending time with Trella.
I also love that a big part of this book deals with what happens after. It's something rarely dealt with once the hero's journey is completed. We've dethroned the evil empire and now everything will just be roses and sunshine forever, right? Well, not so much, and I really love that Outside In goes there.
On the other hand, why exactly is an antisocial seventeen-year-old girl the best option they've got for world leader? Seriously, isn't there someone wiser and more experienced who could possibly take on the job? No? Really? You sure? I mean, I realize this is a YA novel and all, but you're stretching the boundaries of my suspension of disbelief here. I'm willing to go along with it as long as I'm reading the book, but as soon as I put it down, my brain starts going "wait, what?" again.
The other thing that drives me nuts could be considered a mild spoiler, so I'll put it here in my magic spoilervision. Highlight to read: It's mentioned more than once that the Outsiders were banished from Inside for unspecified crimes. Trella asks about these crimes but the Outsiders don't want to talk about it. Later on, she wonders about it again. The answer? I have no idea, because it's never revealed. There was enough buildup for this I expected some sort of revelation, but I was left hanging. Oh, the frustration!
Alright, spoilers over, so the rest of you can stop plugging your ears and singing "lalalala."
I have no hesitation in saying that I enjoyed reading this book, but I also have no hesitation in saying I enjoyed its predecessor much more. I like the ideas explored, I like the protagonist and the way she continues to grow and change from the misanthropic loner we met at the beginning of the first book, but I didn't feel this was as solid a read as I've come to expect from Ms. Snyder.
Outside In is available in trade paperback as an e-book. My copy was generously provided by the publisher.