Saturday, November 7, 2009

Book Review, outside IN

One of our strongest human needs is to fit in. This drives so much behaviour, particularly in our teenage years. Do you remember feeling that everyone else was cool, confident and charismatic, while you didn’t even fit inside your own skin? I don’t think things are any different for Generation X, Y or Z:

Feels like everyone else’s got the answers
You got shadows, they got light
You just got a heap of questions
While they got everything right

Written by Chrissie Keighery, and published by Hardie Grant Egmont (2009), outside IN is definitely a YA novella worth reading. I think girls will love this book, but don’t dismiss it as girly. It’s not gritty either. It’s a realistic novel about teens and the problems they deal with. Jordan, Jack, Meredith, Lee, Cecilia, Sam … and the watcher, Renee. Each one copes or doesn’t cope in their own way, concealing or sharing their secrets, and exploring the nature of growing up.

Friendship is an important theme in the book. These kids are real – we hear their thoughts and share their impatience, their loyalty and their drive to belong. Keighery has the knack of speaking in both an authentic boy voice and an authentic girl voice. I love the way she shows us the action, and commentary on the action, from each different character’s perspective. If this isn’t done well, it can result in a novel feeling fragmented or disjointed. Keighery weaves the different threads into a satisfying tapestry. She also tailors vocabulary and sentence structure to suit each character, strengthening their point of view, increasing our emotional involvement with them.

outside IN would make a great text for high school students to read. There are many discussion opportunities, and teens will relate to themes of body image, divorce, and friendship. Keighery’s writing expertise also makes it an excellent model for young writers. I am sure they will enjoy the fragments of poetry, the lyrical text and the three-dimensional, likable characters as much as I did.

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