The Outside

By Laura Bickle
Published on September 3rd 2013
Published by Harcourt Children's Books

Source: Netgalley
One girl. One road. One chance to save what remains…

After a plague of vampires is unleashed in the world, Katie is kicked out of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. Now in exile, she enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two “English” friends and a horse by her side. Together they seek answers and other survivors—but each sunset brings the threat of vampire attack, and each sunrise the threat of starvation.

And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can these new people be trusted, and are they even people at all?

In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, it’s up to one Amish girl to save her family, her community, and the boy she loves . . . but what will she be asked to leave behind in return?
For all that I loved The Hallowed Ones, the predecessor to this book, I was blown away by The Outside.  I read a full 75% of it in one day, squeezed in during down time and lunch at work (shh, don't tell).  This was on my list of most anticipated books for 2013, and it did not disappoint.  (Side note: when did it get to be nearly September?! Wasn't I just putting together my end-of-year lists in December?!!?)

We pick up not long after the first book ends, with Katie, Alex, and Ginger together on the Outside, having been cast out of Katie's Amish community during a vampire uprising.  The trio are trying to make it to Canada, hoping they can outrun and outwit the vampires, in search of Alex's family.  Over the course of the book, you get to see how the Darkness has changed each of them, and yet how they each remain true to themselves.

Katie may still think of herself as a Plain girl, even after all she's been through, but she can also go hand to hand with vampires and hold her own.  She may not see herself this way, but she's a total badass.  I enjoyed her relationship with Alex, too.  Being with him goes against the beliefs she was raised with, but they don't spend the whole book angsting about it.  At the same time, neither does Katie just go with Alex without thinking critically about how it fits in with her faiths.  And I adore the fact that while Alex initially comes off as the brooding, bad boy type, tattoos and all, he is so very much more than that, and he treats Katie with so much care and respect, giving her her freedom and autonomy in a way that I rarely see in YA books.

While this book has plenty of action -- vampire bikers, explosions, beheadings and stakings and close calls galore -- there is plenty of time for introspection and quiet moments for all of the characters.  What I loved most is that though this is a mainstream novel (as in, not published by a Christian fiction house), there is plenty of room for discussion of faith.  Katie's beliefs are never mocked or ridiculed; while Alex may not believe in the way she does, he is genuinely curious about her beliefs and way of life.  Katie's faith has to adapt to accommodate a world with Darkness overrunning it, but unlike a lot of non-Christian-publisher books involving a character of faith, she never has to break away or lose faith in God to get through her ordeal.

There are plenty of heartbreaking moments in this book, so have tissues handy, but also be prepared to be on the edge of your seat, rooting for everyone to make it out okay.  And, of course, there are lots of touching passages, and moments of great humor, as well.  I loved the ending, too, which seemed to wrap everything up just neatly enough to leave you satisfied.  I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone, and look forward to seeing what Laura Bickle does next.

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