Target Audience: Teens/Young Adults
Inside Out grabbed my attention on so many levels, not just because of the insanely unique storyline, but also because of the way it made me feel by reading it. Now usually, i'll say a book made me feel happy, sad, or made me laugh, or something along those lines. In this case, the imagery and the events are so well written, i felt claustrophobic!
Just the thought of being stuck in Inside had me shudder, mainly because i hate small spaces, but regardless of that this book is so descriptive I easily imagined the world Trella was living in and nothing could have prepared me for the revelations at the end.
Trella is a Scrub, one of many people living in the lower levels of inside and brought up to do manual labour, waste, cleaning and other such tasks. Like all the other scrubs, she does her job and keeps to herself, not caring much about anyone. Or at least she tries to, that is until a prophet claims to know how to get Outside and her friend Cogon gets her to listen to him. One small trip to prove the prophet wrong leads Trella into a dangerous series of events and starts a rebellion so huge it has the power to change Inside forever, as she tries to find a way to Outside.
If I had to pick only one thing to praise any of Maria's books it's the quality of world building and the characters. Very few authors can describe a world so well that you can almost imagine the rigid shape of Inside, the smell of the air and imagine the way in which the lower levels are treated like cattle. I could easily picture Trella climbing through pipes and ducts and I loved the sense of excitement and tension as the story progressed and she relied more and more on her hidey holes and escape routes, the feeling of being cornered and trapped a huge theme in this novel.
And it wasn't just the themes and surroundings, it was the actual world. Sex is only for producing children, babies snatched from their parents, ridiculous punishments for silly mistakes and very cruel pop cops. To say i was left horrified in some instances was an understatement. Yet don't let that depress you, there is a lot of uplifting moments, friendships and loyalty throughout to balance out the more saddening parts of the novel.
As for the characters, the most amazing thing is that all of the characters in this book are flawed to some extent. Now don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with perfect people, but since people aren't perfect I prefer characters to be at least a little flawed. Trella, despite being a wonderful hero makes mistakes and messes up frequently, yet this did not take away anything from her character. To me it was a wonderful reminder that those who make a big difference are often imperfect. It's a comforting thought.
With regards to the other characters, I have to admit I have never seen such a varied and colourful cast as I have in this book. Whether it's the bad guys or the good guys, there's no doubt that a lot of thought went in to each and every one of them.
Cogon was a personal favourite of mine and I loved his positive attitude and his willingness not to give up, he was a big force behind Trella whenever she nearly gave up, and more than often he sacrificed a lot to keep her safe, the ultimate mark of a true friend.
The two Tech-No's Logan and Jade-Anne were wonderful as well and i absolutely loved there rebellion among the recycling, it takes re-using broken goods to a whole new level and some of the things they invented were completely awesome and really made me wish I could have them.
Broken Man was a character that, at times, drove me nuts. He could be so helpful at times but at others just annoying and making stupid mistakes (such as hacking things before he's supposed to!) Ultimately though he was a great guy, even if he did make rather annoying demands at times (maybe I just have a problem with bossy people).
My other favourite character was Riley. Confident, loving and open minded, he was definitely the Ying to Trella's Yang, and she would never have been able to do what she did without his help. And the romance between himself and Trella was beautifully written and utterly believable. And I will never think of sheep in the same way again, because whenever I do I think of Sheepy :-)
Overall I have to admit I loved this novel and I will most definitely be reading the sequel; Outside In.
If I were to sum up this book in a five words I would describe it as exciting, inspirational, romantic, pulse-racing and utterly fantastic.
Maria has once again written a truly amazing and awe inspiring work of fiction.