Inside Out is a dystopian young adult novel about a young woman who lives in what amounts to a gigantic metal cube. There are four levels in the cube, two of which are reserved for the lower class people or "scrubs," the two upper levels for the higher class folks who are simply known as Uppers.
The lower levels are painfully overcrowded with scrubs. Trella is a scrub whose job is to clean pipes. Because she's skinny and solitary, the job is perfect for Trella. She often escapes to the pipes to sleep or just spend some time alone, away from the masses. Thanks to her exploration and knowledge of the pipes, vents, elevator shafts and spaces between, Trella is known as the Queen of the Pipes.
Introverted and firmly convinced that she doesn't like people, Trella does have one very close friend by the name of Cogon. When Cog talks her into hearing a "prophet" speak about his belief in a door to the outside world, Trella isn't interested.
****Warning: I'm trying to keep this review as general as possible but it may contain some spoilers. If you plan to read Inside Out anytime soon, you might want to skip the next paragraph.
You have been warned. ****
But, when the Pop Cops (Population Control officers) find and arrest the prophet, Trella begins to question her skepticism. Why would the Pop Cops grab the prophet if he didn't have something to hide? With only seconds to save the prophet and Cog already rushing to the rescue, Trella makes a decision that will thrust both of them into a dangerous search for the truth.
****The safe version begins here. Skip this sentence if you've read the potentially spoilery paragraph****
But, then something happens to change her mind and Trella makes a decision that will thrust both of them into a dangerous search for the truth.
Is there a hidden door to Outside? What is beyond the walls of Inside? And, why is the exit being hidden from the scrubs, if it exists?
Did you skip the spoilery paragraph? Well, good for you (either way). It's good to know your mind.
First things first. I loved the immersive experience of Inside Out. Trella's world is grubby and terrifying, but surprisingly believable. I can't tell you what Trella and her growing army of information seekers discover without ruining the story for anyone who hasn't read it, but like most dystopian young adult books, the world of Inside is horribly messed up, change is inevitable, and it will take some potentially deadly, surreptitious, clever and violent action to bring about that change.
Although Trella has no interest in leadership, she has a compelling reason to seek answers (which I'm not going to share, sigh). Trella initially risks her life for The Compelling Reason but eventually her priorities expand to bettering the lives of the people she lives with and overthrowing the powerful people in charge. In the process, Trella must face her feelings, her prejudices and the unknown truths of her world head-on.
Inside Out is a remarkably uncomfortable book -- frightening enough that I'm a little surprised I didn't end up having nightmares. There's this thing called the Chomper, you see. If you really screw up, you're fed to the Chomper and recycled. Everything, in fact, is constantly cleaned and eventually recycled. There are some pretty strong hints about what's outside, but I was still surprised when the answer to the crucial question was revealed.
One thing's for sure. Inside Out will make you appreciate what's outside your door and the freedom to step outside any time you so desire. This is not outside my door, but I'm sure you get my drift.
There is a sequel to Inside Out called Outside In and I am anxious to read it, but Inside Out was a Borders close-out purchase and they didn't have a copy of Outside In, unfortunately. I've added Outside In to my wish list and it may end up being my first real e-book purchase (all the e-books I've downloaded, so far, have been bargain priced or free).
A terrifying dystopian world, a young, stolid heroine who must fight her instincts and a fascinating, marvelously twisty plot make Inside Out a winner. Highly recommended. There is a good deal of violence but none of it is superfluous, in my humble opinion. The dystopian world of Inside is so desperately awful that it's a case of the proverbial peasants forced to rebel in order to instigate change.
Inside Out is the first book I've read by Maria V. Snyder but it will definitely not be the last. Fortunately for me, Kiddo is a fan and already owns both the Glass and Study series' by Snyder.