Title:The Outs [on Amazon | on Goodreads] Series:None Author:E.S. Wesley [Site | Goodreads] Genres:Sci-Fi, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy Year:2017 Age:14+ Stars:5/5 Pros:Fresh premise. Strong blend of sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal. Imaginative, hectic story without a dull moment. Tridimensional (and diverse) characters. Focus on friendship and loyalty. Cons:Might seem a bit frenzied and confusing to some. Concise writing with short sentences might not appeal to everyone. WARNING!Gory and scary in parts, with gruesome deaths and suicide. Will appeal to:Those who are looking for a breathtaking story with a strong accent on friendship and an unusual heroine.
Blurb:Caleb’s been changing ever since the memory-stealing blackouts - the Outs - started. He used to be a good, dependable, honor-student, but now his parents have vanished, and something inside tells him their disappearance is his fault. That something has a voice - a voice that's pushed him to kidnap a little girl. Caleb believes he did it to protect her, but now he’s starting to wonder if he’s the one she needs protection from. Then there’s his friend, Kitzi. Kitzi knows a secret she can’t share, locked in her head behind layers of brain damage. Kitzi wants to help Caleb, but she suspects a connection between this little girl and the Outs. If she can survive Caleb’s mistakes and the strange girl’s reality-bending fits long enough to put the pieces together, her secret might save them. Or it could mean the end of everything. (Goodreads)
Review:First off...DISCLAIMER:I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased. To date, a couple of their books have been under the 4 star mark for me. But seriously, CQP has some of the best sci-fi/fantasy titles around. It's not my fault 😉.
THE SKY'S THE LIMIT
As a reader of all things weird, I sometimes muse about the rise and fall of certain genres. Maybe good old dystopian is riding a failing curve, I don't know. What I know is, sci-fantasy is on a roll, at least judging from the books I've been reading in the latest twelve months or so (which are not many, I'll admit, but still). Mind you, some of them do have dystopian elements, or ARE indeed shamelessly dystopian more than anything else...but the thing they all have in common is the happy marriage of sci-fi with fantasy. This allows authors more freedom, helps them break the boundaries and come up with fresher and bolder ideas. In The Outs, a sci-fi premise blends with a paranormal scenario, and throws in a comic/superhero theme for good measure. I'll admit that, in the hands of a less skilled writer, this might be a recipe for disaster. But E.S. Wesley rides this monster magnificently, and without a flinch. Add in a couple of damaged, flesh-and-blood teens, a disability turned into a diverse superpower, and a creepy, powerful, but still vulnerable little girl, and you'll get one of the most entertaining-slash-moving stories you'll ever read. [...]
It's so difficult to review this book without spoiling it too much. Also, like I said, it touches upon (or delves into) so many themes/genres, one would probably need to write another book to cover everything. While this is one of those stories that actually improve in reread (mainly because of its complexity), the surprise/learning-things-as-you-go factor is important, so I don't want to rob you of your reading experience beforehand. But I need to spend a few words about the main characters (or the two of them who get a POV at least, because I want the third one to surprise you). There's diversity in there, well-woven into the story. There's racial diversity (though it's not a crucial point), depression, and accident-inducted aphasia, combined with a form of synesthesia. We see Kitzi - the female lead - struggling with the latter two, but in the end her unique brand of synesthesia becomes a kind of superpower. Though off-limits for real teens, this trope is absolutely heartwarming, and I'm sure that young people who suffer from similar issues will find confort, and even strenght, in this representation - also because the author shows how a person with such problems can nevertheless find someone who loves and accepts her (or him) the way she (or he) is. Plus, Kitzi is SO MUCH MORE than her problems. She's so real you'll feel like reaching to her through the pages and give her a hug!
THE HUMAN STAIN
At its core, The Outs is a story of friendship and loyalty - and I won't say more on the subject because it would spoil the fun big time. It's also a story of mistakes - HUGE mistakes - and consequences...or in some case, lack thereof. I think it works because, amidst all the action and the frenzy and the violence and the extraordinary occurrences, the main characters (and even the villain, or at least certain, let's say, angles of him) are flesh-and-blood people who took a bad turn and now have to pay the price - while they bravely try to right what wrongs they can. The book also explores the outcome of a world where, under certain circumstances, actions bear no consequences, which in turn causes (like the quote on the cover says) the monster inside us to get unleashed. Finally, The Outs doesn't have what you would call a spelled-out ending, but the one it has is perfect AND satisfying. Unless you want the hero and heroine to sail away on a pink cloud, that is 😉. Kudos to Mr. Wesley for taking this route - and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!