Note: Spoilers will be posted in this review. However, if you’ve read the official summary you’ve already been spoiled.
The other day I took The Outside by Laura Bickle to work with me to read during my lunch break. As I work with a friendly, inquisitive bunch of people I kept getting questions about what I was reading. I began to explain what the book was about, usually opening with ‘well, this sounds dumb but it’s about the Amish and vampires’ but then I would go into depth about how once you get past the concept, the story is one that asks deeper questions but ultimately leaves the reader to make up their own mind about those questions. Fellow readers, The Outside was everything I wanted in the sequel to The Hallowed Ones and more.
A bann has been placed on Katie, meaning that she has been shunned for sleeping with outsider Alex, and so the two have been kicked out of the Plain community along with Katie’s outsider friend, middle aged woman Ginger. The three make their way north searching for Alex and Ginger’s families as well as other survivors. Along the way they encounter snakes, the Darkness, an abandoned private zoo, and more. It kind of kills me to not go into more depth on their adventures because the plot of this book is great. It might not be as action-packed as The Hallowed Ones per se, but all of the revelations about what is going on outside the Plain community kept my attention rapt.
What I love about Bickle’s duology (at least I think it is a duology) is that she writes a main character, Katie, affectionately referred to as Bonnet by Alex, who realistically questions her faith. Yet, all of the faith and the mentions of God don’t feel pushy, and I say that as someone who will hide upstairs if it looks like people are going to knock on my door and spread the good word to me. I love that Katie continues to develop and to kind of become more real to me. She seems very fleshed out and realized. I did not think I’d love a book with an Amish person as the main character, but it turns out that Laura Bickle and The Outside as well as The Hallowed Ones have proved me very wrong. I should also mention that Katie is an animal lover, she’s rational, and a tiny bit rebellious. Of course she has cemented her way into my heart.
If you decided to read the sequel because you liked the different questions of philosophy in The Hallowed Ones, take heart, The Outside is an intelligent read that will have you feeling inquisitive. Alex, Katie’s romantic interest, still has fascinating stories about various religious traditions. We get to see how hallowed ground for other religions works just as well as that of the Plainfolk for keeping the Darkness out. We also get to see science treated with as much respect as religion in this horror novel. There’s a question of faith versus cold hard science in this book, but ultimately, I felt like I could go either way but I never felt annoyed at the lack of position. The question is explored in an exciting way is all I will say.
The romance with The Outside is not the overt romance of other young adult books. If it was, I am not sure that would work for this book. Katie is Amish and is very, very modest. She does not just shed all that modesty after going out into the world on her own post-apocalyptic Rumspringa. No way, instead she is real to character and you see this steady sort of relationship between Katie and Alex. Guys, there are swoons it just that they are subtle and not in your face. It’s the sort of swoon that comes from being with someone who is reliable and steady and respectful of you, not the sort of swoon that comes from a marathon kissing session.
Similar to The Hallowed Ones, The Outside is a quick read that basically had me engaged throughout the whole thing. In fact, at the end, I totally fist pumped for the second to last chapter because Katie does something totally fierce, like she pulls a Katniss. Do not let the weird or what I would rather call unique concept turn you off, The Outside is an excellent addition to the young adult horror genre and absolutely should not be missed.
Disclosure: Review Copy Provided Via Amazon Vine
Other reviews of The Outside by Laura Bickle:
Reading In Winter – “perfect for those who want something different in their YA dystopians”
For What It’s Worth – “It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read”
Books, Bones & Buffy – “At the end of the book I actually got chills”