Book Review: Inside Out


Inside Out

Maria V. Snyder 
Paperback, 320 pages
Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
April 01, 2010

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the author.

Welcome to Inside, where everything from water, food, air, temperature, and human population is carefully controlled and society is broken into two distinct groups – uppers and lowers – the former being the ruling class over the latter, who live and work in overcrowded and inhumane conditions their entire lives until they die and are fed to Chomper to be recycled into fertilizer.  17-year-old Trella is a scrub, and she knows every duct and pipe in the lower levels of Inside that she’s assigned to clean.  That knowledge, along with her antisocial personality, has earned her the less  than honorific title of Queen of the Pipes. 

Trella isn’t exactly thrilled with her lot in life.  While upper children are raised by their parents and enjoy freedom and precious space and privacy, lowers are raised by Care Mothers in groups of ten (with no knowledge of their families) until they reach maturity and begin working.  Ten hours on and ten hours off.  Every day is exactly like the day before. 

That is, until Trella’s only friend Cogon takes her to meet a prophet called Broken Man who claims to have knowledge of the whereabouts of a Gateway to Outside.  The Population Control Police, or Pop Cops as they’re known to the lowers, spew propaganda regularly about the mythical world of Outside, a place that is only attainable after a lifetime of hard work and obeying the rules.  But Trella doesn’t believe a word of it.  When Broken Man asks her to retrieve disks that contains information about Gateway, she only does it to prove that the prophet is a fake and to convince Cogon that Outside doesn’t exist, saving her friend from getting his hopes dashed.

But a run-in with the Pop Cops ends with Broken Man being captured and Trella and Cog risk their lives to save him before he’s interrogated and recycled.  Now Trella is under suspicion and a powerful Lieutenant Commander is watching her like a hawk, waiting for her to make one wrong move and reveal the whereabouts of Broken Man and the disks. 

Trella finds help from a young upper named Riley, who wants to improve the living conditions of the lower levels and bring down the ruling Trava family who controls all of Inside and fosters the animosity between uppers and lowers to keep both groups from rising against them. 

It becomes a race for the rebels to locate and open Gateway before more people are arrested, tortured, and recycled by the Travas.  But once Gateway is open, what will Trella find on the other side?

I was thrilled by this book.  It was fast-paced, exciting, and most of all, different!  The world of Inside that Snyder creates is unlike anything I’ve encountered before.  It’s a sci-fi, futuristic dystopia that’s filled with fear mongering and social stratification, where the Travas encourage lowers to rat out their peers by offering a better life in the upper levels and their hate-breeding propaganda is believed by both groups. 

The whole concept of a world encased in steel walls, pipes, and ducts, where Outside is thought to be nothing but a myth concocted by the Travas to keep the lowers in line was fascinating to me.  I was anxious for Trella to dodge the Pop Cops and find Gateway so I could see what was on the other side.  And I loved the allies she picked up along the way, including Logan and Anne-Jade, the Tech Nos who use junk parts to create all kinds of wonderful high-tech gadgets, and Jacy, a scrub who has a network of spies and informants at his disposal, and of course, Riley (who turns into a lot more than an ally). 

All the little social and cultural details kept me intrigued throughout the story, like how everything is made up in multiples of ten, time is measured in weeks (and deciweeks) instead of years, and the difference between the uppers’ and lowers’ beliefs and values (at one point Trella is confused by an upper woman’s devastation when she’s forced to give up her newborn baby).  Even the constant references to scrubs as sheep (and an adorable stuffed animal sheep named Sheepy) or idioms like “Thank the air!” all added to my overall enjoyment of the book. 

And the ending totally blew me away.  Out of all the things that kept me guessing, I never saw this one coming, and it tapped into one of my longtime irrational fears (which I won’t get into now so as not to give too much away) enough to make me shiver. 

I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel, Outside In, and am excited that I finally found a YA book that I wasn’t constantly rolling my eyes through (I think it’s mostly YA because of Trella’s age and the language is toned down.  I know I would be shrieking a few choice expletives if I were caught in some of her sticky situations).  I would recommend this book to fans of sci-fi, dystopia or action/adventure fans.

And be sure to stop by on March 30th for a Q&A with Maria V. Snyder and a giveaway of a signed copy of Inside Out!



  1. Dionne Said:

    Nice review–that sounds like a really interesting book, and I love me a surprise ending!

    • Jamye Said:

      Me too and I hardly ever read books that have them for some reason!

  2. […] and Glass series, with us today to answer some questions and host a giveaway of her new book, Inside Out, which hits the shelves […]

  3. […] — Jamye @ 1:12 pm And the winner of the signed copy of Maria V. Snyder’s new book, Inside Out, […]

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