‘I’m Trella. I’m a scrub. A nobody. One of the thousands who work the lower levels, keeping the Inside clean for the Uppers. I’ve got one friend, do my job, and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? The only neck at risk is my own…until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution…’
The premise for Inside Out, a society living within, essentially, a mental prison with an oppressive class hierarchy, is the kind of dystopian tale I love. The world-building was well thought out and realistic. While separation of the classes is nothing new, what makes Inside Out so intriguing is that not only are we reading for all intents and purposes, a situation that, historically, has taken place again and again but is set in a fantastical, strange environment.
Snyder’s narrative is very evocative and feels oppressive, and reading Inside Out, I was immersed in Trella’s world of warm, claustrophobic, endless metal, dark tunnels, and stale, recycled air. I found myself yearning for wide open spaces, the sky, and nature, to breathe in the crisp, fresh air. The pacing of Inside Out is spot on – as the reader, alongside Trella, slowly unravels some of the secrets of Inside. Like all the best stories, not all mysteries are solved, and what started out as a seemingly simple premise suddenly becomes a lot more complex by the end of the novel.
Trella is a truly strong heroine. She is skilled, independent, and stubborn but flawed. I was instantly drawn to her, despite her less-than-nice character at times. Her character growth was very realistic and satisfactory. We see her develop from a loner, looking down on those around her, uninterested in her fellow Scrubs who she thinks of as sheep, and only looking out for herself, to gaining their respect and vice-versa, forming friendships and alliances, and finally, fighting for them.
But what I loved most about Inside Out was that we have a heroine who (inadvertently) starts and continues a rebellion, not for some boy she just met, but for herself and the Scrubs she lives with every day, even for the Uppers. It’s not just Trella who is the heroine. An entire band of people from both the Lower and the Upper levels joins together to bring about a change, resulting in some touching moments, as even those who don’t know exactly what’s going on risk their lives to help and cover for Trella anyway. It’s a very powerful message.
There is a hint of romance in this book, but it is very low-key and not the main storyline at all, which I found refreshing. It also meant the potential relationship was slowly developed, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it in the next book.
I will admit that I found the description of the various levels slightly confusing! If I had any issues with Inside Out it would simply be that I could have done with fewer descriptions of Trella crawling around the piping – but understood that they were necessary for the progression of the plot. It certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment.
This is a solid dystopian novel with a sophisticated story and narrative. While I didn’t love it (hence the 8 ratings), I would recommend it to all dystopian lovers. Inside Out is definitely one of the stronger YA books out there in its genre.