I received a free e-version from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Outside by Shalini Boland follows Riley, a teenage girl who lives inside a Perimeter, a pocket of safety inside a lawless, feral world destroyed by war—until her younger sister is murdered, and Riley leaves to track down the killer.
Outside was a refreshing take on the YA post-apocalyptic novel. Tropes that I believed were required by law in this genre—I’m joking there—were replaced with an unexpected plot. It read more like a (gentle) thriller with the added zing and imagination of an obliterated world.
A secondary point of view on a different timeline added a whole new layer of intrigue. I kept wondering how this second storyline—which was low-action (depending on your preferences, even uninteresting) and felt like it belonged in an adult romance—would affect the primary point of view and timeline, and I wasn’t disappointed. The past had some surprises for our heroes.
Speaking of whom, Riley and her comrade, Luc, were likeable, honest characters, and the beginnings of their romance were endearing and innocent, exactly how I appreciate them.
Yet, while the book’s direction was unanticipated, it felt less of an interconnected, commanding plot than a string of eccentric scenes. Side characters appeared to contribute temporary aid or problems before dropping off the grid, and the main characters’ choices (besides deciding where to travel next) never impacted the grand scheme. And unfortunately, they peaked at an anticlimax that, again, wasn’t even brought about actively by the heroine.
Similarly, while I enjoyed Riley and Luc, I found them to be flat— quite likeable, but flat. Part of that was due to the writing style, which included a lot of summary and factual stating instead of immersion and showing—particularly in the dialogue. Even state-of-mind changes and what I believe should have been major/essential scenes were glazed over in a few sentences.
I’d like to clarify, though, that I didn’t dislike this book. On the contrary, Outside was a fun, quick, unexpected read, a brisk jaunt through a post-apocalyptic world.
CW regarding references to sex and sensuality. I cannot speak to the graphicness of make-out scenes because my reading of those was not thorough.