I was lucky to get an advanced copy of Outside, which doesn’t actually publish until January 2019. This was another proof giveaway from YALC, this time from Penguin. It took me a few months to get around to reading it, even though I liked the look of it, but in the end, it just didn’t do it for me. It also doesn’t have cover art yet, so the picture in this post is of the proof cover, as tweeted by Penguin Platform.
Outside follows the story of Ele, who is held captive in a small room by a man known as ‘Him’. Ele is determined to prove there is a world Outside. And when she finds a hole in the wall, the proof starts leaking in. In this dark and compelling debut novel, Ele’s strong and heartbreakingly optimistic voice shines through, revealing an important lesson about the power of stories to save lives.
Outside felt a lot like Room, by Emma Donoghuem which I read in 2016 but apparently never reviewed. A story told by a child of a captive existence, the writing style is the majority of the appeal of this book. Specifically for Outside, Ele believes that Outside is a fairy-tale world, as she hasn’t learned to distinguish between fiction and reality. The story follows her attempts to prove that the Outside is real.
I didn’t really enjoy Outside. I thought it was quite disjointed, and didn’t know where the actual plot was – it was unbalanced between the first act and second act, and never seemed to really know where it was going in its entirety. The writing style was designed to showcase the lack of knowledge that Ele has, because of the way that she has grown up, and her lack of experiences.
I’m sure there are some people who will totally love this book. It’s emotionally written, and certainly has the power to draw you into Ele’s world. It’s secretive and mysterious, with some big reveals in the later parts of the novel which don’t feel forced at all, because of how Ele develops as a person.
But it just wasn’t right for me. The writing style annoyed me, the capitals everywhere annoyed me, the plot felt disjointed, and the impact was kind of lost on me. I think this was very much an issue with me, rather than the book.
But it is a very specific type of book, and probably worth having a flick through to look at the writing style before picking it up. It might work for you, but it definitely did not work for me.