Yep, I'm back...with two good ones to recommend! I'd love to say I've been in Hawaii or lounging in the Bahamas but the truth is, I've been battling the demons of middle school (otherwise known as our sixth grade) and spending way too much time playing on the iPad. Oh well. My two recent reads, however, are both so delicious, I'm anxious to share them with you.
First up is Outside In by Maria V. Snyder:
Trella, a former scrub in her world of Inside, has led a revolution for her fellow scrubs for more equality in their way of life. In addition, she's discovered Gateway, the door to "Outside"--(possible spoiler) which has turned out to be outer space. Now, in the sequel to Inside Out, Trella's ready for her life to resume and for others to take care of the daily running of their world. But it doesn't take long for Trella to realize that something is not only not right about the new system of governing; it's scarily wrong. What is actually lurking Outside?
Outside In grabbed me once again from the opening pages; Trella, Queen of the Pipes, is determined to discover the ceiling of Inside, but her position as leader of the rebellion keeps her in meetings and away from Riley, her newfound boyfriend. In addition, Trella finds herself spending more time with Dr. Gifford than she'd anticipated, with the possibility of of their being related hanging over them both. When bombs begin going off, Trella suspects members of the former leaders of Inside, the Trava family, and she finds her own life in danger when she tries to protect those she cares about. But when someone known as The Controllers takes over the computer system Inside, Trella and her friends realize that maybe the danger isn't just Inside...what if Outside wants in?
Ms. Snyder has written a terrific sequel to the compelling Inside Out, with Trella once again at the center of circumstances beyond her control and expectation. While Trella is battling unseen and unknown forces, she's also battling herself and her relationships with Riley, Dr. Gifford, and her friends as she comes to grips with her role Inside. Toward the end of this novel, I literally could not put it down, though I was a little disappointed with the tying up of the threads very quickly. But the terrific storytelling with its twists and its uncertainties of whom to trust more than makes up for the rushed ending. Ms. Snyder brings you Inside and makes you experience the sensations Trella experiences while managing to keep Trella real and thoroughly believable. I am very hopeful that Trella's story isn't at an end because I've come to love the world of Inside and its inhabitants. This is one fan who will be searching out more works by Ms. Snyder and hoping fervently to go back Inside once more.
Additional note: Outside In is a young adult book, and a well written one at that. The relationship between Trella and Riley is both emotional and physical, and always tasteful. The physical relationship adds depth to the characters and Ms. Snyder does not shy away from it. I found it a natural extension of their feelings and can recommend this book without hesitation to those who are ready to read about this aspect.
Now for book number two, one I'm sure you are going to hear a lot about in the coming days: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult.
Zoe and Max Baxter have struggled with infertility for years, going thousands of dollars in debt and experiencing all sorts of trauma as they undergo IVF. At long last, Zoe becomes pregnant and seems to be carrying to term when an unthinkable tragedy occurs. In the aftermath, Max decides he just cannot do this anymore; he walks away from his marriage to Zoe, leaving her alone to pick up the pieces of her life. To add insult to injury, Zoe discovers she has cancer and must undergo a hysterectomy; without her friendship with new friend Vanessa, Zoe feels certain she would not survive. As the two women grow closer, however, it becomes evident to both that their relationship is much deeper than they had realized, and while Zoe can no longer carry the frozen embryos left behind from her marriage, Vanessa can. All that is needed is Max's consent for Zoe to use the embryos.
Max, on the other hand, finds himself struggling on his own after his divorce; a recovering alcoholic, he turns back to the bottle to cover his feelings of loss and inadequacy. When an accident causes him to re-evaluate his life, he turns to his older brother Reid and Reid's church, Eternal Glory. Eternal Glory is very conservative yet loving, and Max easily slips into its tenets and literal interpretations of the Bible. When he receives Zoe's request to use the embryos with her lesbian partner, Max just cannot feel this is God's plan and instead comes up with one of his own: he will take custody of the embryos and give them to his brother and his wife, who are also struggling iwth infertility. The court case that ensues is ugly, dragging all parties through the mud in an attempt to determine what will be the best family for the potential children.
Picoult knows how to select a hot button issue, and once again, her writing is compelling and her characters real. Having Zoe as a music therapist gives the story a unique perspective; will her stability be better for the children despite her turn into lesbianism? Picoult explores all the common ins and outs of gay issues: Are gay people born that way? If so, how is it that Zoe has not been gay before she met Vanessa? Will the children be ostracized by having same sex parents? Are church going people better options than two loving parents, one of whom is biologically related to the embryos? What is fair? Told in alternating points of view, we get to know the inner reflections of the three main characters, making judgments of their failures all the harder.