Title: The Outside
Author: Laura Bickle
May Contain Spoilers
Last year, I read The Hallowed Ones, and it totally creeped me out. It was scary and suspenseful, and protagonist Katie was brave, level-headed, and firmly grounded by her Amish beliefs. I eagerly awaited The Outside, the next book in the series, which picks up right where The Hallowed Ones left off. The end of the world has come, in the form of a terrible sickness that turns its victims into blood sucking monsters. Katie, her English boyfriend Alex, and Ginger are trying to stay alive after being expelled from Katie’s Amish community. They have no shelter, dwindling provisions, and the vampires are dogging their every step. Only sacred ground is keeping them safe at night, as they trek north to find Alex’s family. Winter is coming (sorry GoTs fans!), and the odds of their continued survival are bleak.
While I didn’t think The Outside was as suspenseful as the previous book, I still had a hard time putting it down. This outing is all about the running. Running from vampires, running from the weather, running from the knowledge that the world has ended and there few survivors of whatever horrible virus has turned humanity into monsters. Along the way, they meet some of the desperate survivors, and Katie and Alex are at odds about what to do with the weapon they receive to alter themselves to survive the fight with the Darkness. Alex jumps at the chance to save himself and have a better way to protect Katie, but Katie struggles with her decision about what to do. She has already gone against her belief system so many times, and she’s afraid that this measure of self-defense will steal away whatever humanity that she has left. I thought that this method of battling the vampires was genius, in a Ha! Take THIS evil vampires!! kind of way.
What I enjoyed best about The Outside was Katie’s struggle to accept the bad things that had happened to her. She made some choices in both books that had very serious repercussions for both herself and for Alex and Ginger, and while she regretted some of the outcomes, she never regretted the initial decision to save Alex. That one choice was the catalyst for everything else that happened; being shunned, being forced from the protection of her community, seeing the terrible things she saw while she was Outside. She is angry with the Elders for not believing the Hexenmeister, and for how their treated Ginger. She’s hurt that her parents did nothing when she was kicked out of the community, yet she can’t stop worrying about them. Even though her friends and everyone she knows have turned their backs on her, she is still willing to give up her life to save as many of them as she can. She’s a very admirable character.
One quibble with the book, and it’s the same quibble I have with most post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels, is how quickly they start to feel repetitive. The steps are always similar to this – travel as far during the day as possible, forage for food and water, seek a safe place to sleep, encounter monsters and life-threatening events along the way. Stop to rest after finding a safe haven, then gear up and get back on the road, facing even more danger than before. The pattern and the pacing occasionally frustrate me. Katie was an interesting enough character that I remained engaged in this story. With her Plain upbringing, she’s even better prepared for the end of the world than most heroines. Katie hasn’t been exposed to modern conveniences, so she’s used to a more rugged life-style. She knows the land, and knows how to forage. She hasn’t had a cushy life, but instead had chores and obligations to her family and her community. I thought this gave her a huge advantage that made her survival more believable.
I enjoyed Laura Bickle’s foray into YA, and look forward to her next project. I like her voice and I really like her characters.
Review copy purchased from Amazon