Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Where did you get this book from: Review galley from NetGalley
Release Date: Out now.
This review contains some spoilers.
Official blurb from author’s website:
I’m Trella. I’m a scrub. One of thousands who work in the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. The Trava family who rules our world from their spacious Upper levels wants us to be docile and obedient, like sheep. To insure we behave, they send the Pop Cops to police us.
So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it’s all that dangerous–the only neck at risk is my own.
Until a lower level prophet claims a Gateway to Outside exists. And guess who he wants to steal into the Upper levels to get the proof? You’re right. Me. I alone know every single duct, pipe, corridor, shortcut, hole and ladder of Inside. It’s suicide plain and simple. But guess who can’t let a challenge like that go unanswered? Right again. Me.
Lou: I’m a fan of Maria’s books, especially the Poison Study series which is labelled Fantasy with a very strong romance element to it. So when I saw that there was going to be a YA book that’s not from the same world as the Poison Study series, and the Opal Cowen series, I was mighty interested – especially when I read it was going to be Sci-Fi. The premise of Inside Out is unique, and when we saw it was available on NetGalley, Has and I said instantly, ‘ Joint Review!’. Inside Out reminded me of The Hunger Games, with the ‘authority’ controlling all aspects of people with lesser powers.
Has: I love claustrophobic/sci fi dystopian settings. It’s a great premise to explore issues and characters in a very tense setting. However I did find the pacing was slow in the beginning of the book due to the monotonous info dumping of the scrubbers lives. Although I think it was done on purpose to show the drudgery they go through. I only felt it picked up pace once Trella got away from her duties, and explored the forbidden parts of the Inside.
Lou: I agree. The beginning of Inside Out I found to be slow going, and there were times that I put the book down because nothing of importance seemed to be happening. Additionally, there was the very detailed descriptions of the layout of the pipes which I found to be slightly monotonous. Trella’s character wasn’t an easy character – in the sense that she wasn’t a heroine who’s easy to like. She was very hard, and somewhat chilly and not very approachable. While it was horrific how the lower level scrubs were treated, and their poor quality of life, Trella’s situation wasn’t different compared to the others. Others managed to make friends and to ease their time, so I wasn’t sure why Trella was so hard compared to the others.
Has: I can understand why she was like that – I don’t think she was selfish but I think she had a dog eat dog world mentality and she wanted to survive, so keeping her head down and becoming a loner helped her. But I also think it was supposed to make her more heroic. But I agree, I did find her too cold at times although her friendship with Cog helped to humanise her. The problem was she didn’t feel human enough for me, although later in the book she was more relatable and vulnerable due to what happened to her.
Lou: I think my problem was the lack of empathy that she had for others. While I didn’t dislike her, I think her being like that didn’t make for an easy read. And perhaps it was done on purporse, because the life of the Inside wasn’t easy, and was cruel and horrific. Though Cog was her beacon of light in a way, and if she didn’t have that friend, I think Trella would be even harder than she is.
Has: It was structured so that the people feel and live like robots. Oh I agree, it was Cog’s actions and beliefs that made her open up, otherwise she wouldn’t have chosen to be part of the change. I think her loner attitude was also part of the lone/rebel hero archytype too. I don’t think that was as clear in the book, but I liked that she developed later on. It was like she locked herself so much into an automaton. Not so much that she was a robot, but she locked her emotions in and Cog was her weak link which helped to crack that. Later, her realisation about people around her made her more aware. And her interactions with others… it felt like she was waking up. I did feel frustrated by some of Trella’s actions towards the latter part of the book towards her trust of others.
Lou: In a way, it was a journey of Trella arriving into the real world. While she hated and understood the status of the lower levels and the upper levels, she didn’t push for a change. She didn’t believe there was a change, or that it could be possible. And it was her exploring the upper levels, and believing in Cog that made the status of the scrubs change. Especially when Broken Man entered the picture as the prophet. But I think what failed for me slightly was that there was no clear understanding of what the Inside was, and why the Uppers controlled them other than they thought they were above them in station, and due to the power of control they had – as in the ultimate authority. Maybe it was done so we were as clueless as the scrubs, but I was mighty confused on what the actual Inside was. So when the rebellion came about, while I cheered them on to become people again and not just cattle, I didn’t really understand what the whole picture was if that makes sense?
Has: Oh definitely. It was pretty ironic. This is going into spoiler territory!
But even those in charge were clueless, and their control/motives were just as destructive towards their own society. Although I suspect there will be more about that and the mysterious controllers in the sequel. You know I just realised that Broken Man was seen to be a prophet, but it was really Trella who was the figure of change. She was the one who ‘ascended’ to the higher levels to get the truth. I liked that little twist.
Lou: This is where Trella’s hardness was handy. She was the only one that had the balls. Add in her knowledge of the layout of the pipes – as she was a cleaner of the pipes – she was the ideal person. And when it showed that there were other small rebels amongst the lower levels, it showed Trella that there were people who didn’t just accept the way life was dictated to them for so many years. And it showed when Trella met Riley – her love interest – that there were people in the upper levels who were ignorant of what happened below, and weren’t happy with how the way Inside was.
Has: I think Riley’s introduction was interesting, and I thought he had a great way to challenge Trella’s walls and defences about the upper levels. But on the romance, I’m not sure if they share enough heat. I can see he saw in her someone who was a loner and hating the society they live in but I didn’t feel we got enough of him in the book. In contrast I loved Jacey’s character in the brief scenes that we saw of him, and I thought he might be a potential love interest at one point.
Lou: I liked Riley. There’s nothing about him to dislike, but I thought his character wasn’t as strong as Trella’s character. And for me, he became somewhat smaller in stature next to her. Jacey was a character that had more personality, and he had this determination, but I’m not sure if he’s going to be a love interest. I saw no hints myself, but if there is going to be possibility, I wouldn’t mind at all as I liked his charactet arc.
Has: I totally agree. I think Riley wasn’t as developed, although I hope in the next book we get to see more development, but I am not feeling any heat. I know its a YA and Trella has closed herself off to feelings, but I thought the romantic tension was not as strong as it could have been. Although the potential for it can be developed.
Lou: I think while there’s a romantic element, it’s not in the forefront of the story, and this book is more about survival, the right to live the life of freedom, and finding the way out of the Inside. Even though I had some issues with the book, I would definitely pick up the second book as I feel this series has a lot of promise and it’s pretty darn unique. I would give Inside Out 3.5 stars.
Has: I loved the premise of the book and even though it had a slow start and I had some problems with Trella’s decisions towards certain characters, I will be definitely picking up the next book Outside In. I feel that the repercussions will have interesting developments and it felt that things are being shaken up like a bottle of coke in this book, and in the next book it will fizz all out. I would also give Inside Out 3.5 stars.