Tuesday, March 4, 2014

YA Pick: The Outside

The Outside
by Laura Bickle
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
313 pages
ISBN: 9780544000131

Read an excerpt

From the author's website:

Advance Praise for THE OUTSIDE:
* “Top-notch. . . . A horror story with heart and soul.”
Kirkus, starred review

“At once horrifying, hopeful, and hauntingly beautiful, this gorgeous read with its rich textures and spine-tingling suspense kept me glued to the pages in utter fascination. Laura Bickle is a master storyteller.”
 -Darynda Jones, NY Times Bestselling author of The Darklight Series

What other YA authors say (from the book's back cover):

"This is a book to make you fear the shadows--a horrifying and gruesome tale of faith, and things that blink red eyes in the night...I could not look away!" --Lauren DeStefano, author the Chemical Garden trilogy

"What an eerily believable, unique story! I can't stop thinking about it--or shivering." --MelissaMarr, New York Times best-selling author of the Wicked Lovely books

No one has ever told a zombie story with so much heart. Bickle balances Katie's firm religious beliefs with the all enveloping  terror unfolding around her. God seems to have no place in this terrible new world.

Katie is on the run with Alex, a boy she saved by taking him inside her Amish community. Now they are both exiled along with Ginger, a lady from the outside who happened to be visiting the community. The three of them are headed toward Canada and away from the danger of zombie attack. They meet a friendly wolf/dog mix who accompanies them on their journey feeding them the prey he is able to catch.  Alex names the dog Fenrir. Fenrir helps keep them safe and alerts them of danger.

The Hexenmeister gave Katie protection in the form of a Himmelsbrief and Alex has tattoos that protect him from zombies, but they still have to fight them to remain alive.  They become a fearsome zombie fighting team when necessary but it's better for them to travel in the daytime and find safety before nightfall. Along the way, they camp in churches and religious buildings in the hope that zombies cannot enter hallowed ground.

As they near Canada, they meet a group of strangers who seem to glow. A scientist near Lake Erie has developed a "vaccine" that causes humans to glow. This glow confuses the zombies and they fear it. Alex takes the vaccine and becomes ill.

If this vaccine is used on everyone, will they defeat the Darkness? Will  the world be saved? Will Katie ever go home to her community? Will her parents ever forgive her? Will people believe that  the vaccine is the answer?

Katie and Alex are the perfect YA couple on the run. There is romance but no time to develop passion, what with running from zombies and saving the world and all. Katie's belief system is put to the test when she is forced to kill or be killed. They have to "steal" from stores and homes along their route and Katie has trouble balancing her religious beliefs against the belief in survival but survival wins out. Her moral compass remains devoutly religious but the more trouble and strife she endures, the more worldly she becomes. Her struggle to believe in a God that would allow true evil in the world is palpable.

Cover art captures the somber tone of much of the book. A shell shocked Katie travels down a littered path followed by a dark, shadowy figure as black birds circle the gray skies overhead. A ramshackle building by the road stands forlorn and abandoned.  A faint golden glow surrounds Katie as she holds her Himmelsbrief to her heart. The artistic cover will beckon readers and  the well crafted plot will hold them captive.

Words cannot explain how much I loved this book. It is truly magnificent and novel. The idea of a young Amish girl as protagonist in a zombie book is genius!

Highly recommended grade 9-up. Book one, The Hallowed Ones, had no nudity or sex. The Outside has a co-ed shower scene, a sleepover, and  nudity although each scene is not explicit I have The Hallowed Ones in our grade 6-8 library, but I'm sending The Outside to the high school.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

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