Outside – Sarah Ann Juckes

This is a story where the less you know before you read it the better so while I’d usually provide content warnings before my review they’ll be at the end of this one, so it’s up to you if you want to read them or not.

Ele lives Inside a Tower with the Others and collects Proofs of the Outside. She dreams of being an Outside Person instead of an Other but knows there are Dragons, Giants and Ogres Outside. Inside is anything but a fairytale because of Him but Inside is all she knows.

Ele is one of those girls whose story and spirit will super glue themselves inside your mind. Her resilience and spunk under unimaginable circumstances inspire me to want to be as brave and capable of facing my fears as she did hers. Her love of reading endeared her to me and, like [book: Matilda|39988] before her, she reinforced my belief that with books and your imagination you can endure and ultimately overcome any adversity.

Her voice, which I originally found disconcerting and disorienting, became easier to read the more I got to know her. Having only known Inside she doesn’t speak like any other character I’ve read. I loved her descriptions of objects that you and I take for granted and sometimes it took me a while to figure out what it was that she was experiencing.

Maybe it’s because I’ve read so much fiction and nonfiction with similar themes or because I try to focus on all of the details in books I plan on reviewing but I picked up on clues of some potential surprises early on. I was disappointed that there were no big revelations for me but from what I can tell based on early reviews I’m an anomaly. I did keep waiting for the police (or anyone in authority, really) to show up and I found it somewhat suspicious that it took so long but also acknowledge that for the story to unfold the way it did they couldn’t get involved too early.

Free Bonus Short Story! If you sign up to join Sarah’s Reader’s Club at her website you’ll be emailed Inside. It’s available in MOBI, ePub and PDF formats. It accompanies Outside and is really, really good, but I cannot stress this enough – please read Outside first or you’ll be in Spoiler World before you know it. I’m not sure if there’s an expiry date on this offer but the link worked at the time I posted this review.

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Content warnings include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual assault, neglect, isolation, grief, suicide, dissociation (which was described brilliantly), physical and mental illness, and living in captivity.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Children’s UK for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Proof of the 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.

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