Outside In

Outside In

1.0 1
by Sarah Ellis

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Lynn’s life is full — choir practice, school, shopping for the perfect jeans, and dealing with her free-spirited mother. Then one day her life is saved by a mysterious girl named Blossom, who introduces Lynn to her own world and family — both more bizarre, yet somehow more sane, than Lynn’s own. Blossom’s family is a small band of…  See more details below


Lynn’s life is full — choir practice, school, shopping for the perfect jeans, and dealing with her free-spirited mother. Then one day her life is saved by a mysterious girl named Blossom, who introduces Lynn to her own world and family — both more bizarre, yet somehow more sane, than Lynn’s own. Blossom’s family is a small band of outcasts and eccentrics who live secretly in an ingenious bunker beneath a city reservoir. The Underlanders forage and trade for the things they need (“Is it useful or lovely?”), living off the things “Citizens” throw away. Lynn is enchanted and amazed. But when she inadvertently reveals their secret, she is forced to take measure of her own motives and lifestyle, as she figures out what it really means to be a family, and a friend. Classic Sarah Ellis, this novel is smart, rich, engaging and insightful.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ellis (The Baby Project) crafts a thought-provoking novel about friendship and belonging. It centers around memorable 13-year-old heroine Lynn, as her home life falls apart and she seeks stability from another family. Lynn falls victim to her bohemian mother's capriciousness when she betrays her live-in boyfriend, has an affair with a married man, loses her job, and forgets to get Lynn's passport for a much-anticipated choir trip. Lynn then meets an unconventional and self-assured girl named Blossom, who saves her from choking at a bus stop. Blossom calls people like Lynn "Citizens" and herself an "Underlander," and she leads Lynn through a Vancouver she's never known, including Blossom's makeshift home in a park where she lives with her two brothers and foster father. In contrast to Lynn's typical teenage fascination with texting and clothes, Blossom and her family delight in discarded possessions, create eclectic meals, trade for goods, and exist outside the law. Though a betrayal that exposes the Underlanders is tidily resolved, the friendship between Lynn and Blossom is particularly satisfying and offers insight into materialism, family, and freedom. Ages 10–13. (May)
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Adrienne Amborski
Veteran author Ellis introduces Lynn, a thirteen-year-old Canadian teen dealing with the breakdown of her free-spirited and flighty mother’s newest and most stable romantic relationship. Lynn represents a typical junior-high teen with days filled with homework, friends, and shopping. The last five years of Lynn’s life had been stable because they had been living with her mother’s boyfriend, Clive, who provided steady food and shelter. When her mother starts an affair, Clive leaves and Lynn’s world is once again in turmoil. When a stranger saves Lynn from choking to death, Lynn sets out to find the mystery girl. At a bus stop, the unknown girl appears and introduces herself as Blossom. Blossom has one simple request; she would like Lynn to become her friend. This friendship leads Lynn to an underground world of kids who call themselves the Underlanders. Underlanders are foragers who live off items that people throw away. A series of events leads this group that prefers to live off-the-grid to become visible to the public. Lynn must decide which lifestyle she prefers and figure out the true meaning of family and friendship. Ellis creates interesting characters and expertly captures the tumultuous relationship between Lynn and her mother. Teens who enjoy reading life “outside of the box” of traditional society will find this quick read a foray into a unique way of life. Reviewer: Adrienne Amborski; Ages 11 to 18.
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Gwen Amborski
Outside In is a well written book for younger teens. Although it is a good story, it will have limited appeal to teens. Teen girls interested in quirky characters will like reading about the Outlanders and how they live an alternative lifestyle. Reviewer: Gwen Amborski, Teen Reviewer; Ages 11 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-03-17
"What if you could just invent your family, your home, your life?" There are times 13-year-old Lynn wishes she could do just that—like right now. Her feckless, New Age–y mom has just ended her relationship with solid, dependable Clive, lost her job and, worst of all, totally forgotten to get Lynn's passport, so Lynn can't go to Choirfest in Portland. Marooned without her BFFs, the Vancouver teen finds an unexpected friend in Blossom, a mysterious girl who saves her with the Heimlich at a bus stop. She leads Lynn down something of a rabbit hole to her home—a cozy, makeshift shelter in a park—where she lives with a dog, her two brothers and a man called Fossick, who is not her father legally or biologically but who is thoroughly devoted. Ellis tackles big themes—loyalty, legality, responsibility, family—with a sure, steady hand, allowing Lynn and readers to see the contrast between her situation and Blossom's and to consider the many threads of relationship that make a family. Both girls' homes and security are tenuous, though in very different ways, and both are effectively powerless. As Lynn falls in love with the magical, quasi-legal underworld that Blossom inhabits, layers of betrayal threaten it, and everyone shares culpability. More than a thoughtful ode to found family, this slim, sweet novel challenges readers to look anew at the ones they have. (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher

“Appealing and provocative, this challenges readers to assess their own lives, bringing up compelling issues as wide-ranging as the ills of consumerism and the obligations of friendship.” — Booklist, starred review
Children's Literature - Leona Illig
Thirteen-year-old Lynn comes from a one-parent, dysfunctional family in Canada that has seen more than its share of bad times and disappointments. Her mother, Shakti, is irresponsible and self-centered. Despite all this, Lynn has good friends at school, does well at her studies, and is looking forward to the school choir’s trip to the U.S. Her life is interrupted, however, when she meets Blossom and her unconventional family. This family lives off the grid, in an underground cottage at the end of the reservoir. They are the “underlanders,” people who survive on things that ordinary people throw away, and who trade for what they need. Lynn begins to understand that there can be a sustainable way of living, and an approach to food, money, and time, based on a values system very different from her own. When her mother reveals the secret of the underlanders to the authorities, Lynn needs to reach out to Blossom and her family and make amends. The theme of this book—that a more responsible, environmental approach to life is better for society—is clear, but the execution leaves something to be desired. Shakti is a completely unsympathetic character, and one wonders how Lynn has been able to fare so well under her parentage. Blossom’s family, on the other hand, has few problems, a fact that is difficult to accept, especially considering the way that they live. At the end of the book, little has changed: Shakti is as selfish as ever, Lynn continues to have good friends and do well at school, and Blossom and her family keep living successfully underground. Ultimately, such an easy ending, with few consequences for anyone, is unsatisfying. Reviewer: Leona Illig; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—With the exception of her quirky, unmarried mother, Lynn is a typical 13-year-old Canadian, navigating through life filled with choir practice, projects, best friends, and school. Things start to fall apart when her mom wrecks her relationship with the only man who has ever stuck around and Lynn's passport doesn't come in time for her to take the choir trip with the rest of her friends, who leave for Portland and the promise of a fun week away from school. Then a mysterious girl named Blossom is thrust into her life and introduces her to a wonderful world within their city called the Underland. Ellis's descriptions of the Underlanders are enthralling, and readers will easily believe that people live off the grid within big cities. While Lynn's ability to break the rules and join the Underlanders so easily seems questionable at first, the compelling cast of characters enable readers to suspend disbelief. Each of the Underlanders has an interesting, heartbreaking story that is developed throughout to keep readers guessing. Lynn's difficult relationship with her mother and her strong bonds with friends make this story very relatable. A thoughtful, exciting read that makes everything ordinary suddenly have the possibility to be extraordinary.—Ellen Norton, White Oak Library District, Crest Hill, IL

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Product Details

Groundwood Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.90(d)
HL570L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Lynn tried to inhale. There was a loud silence. Not one bit of air was getting in. Every part of her brain was screaming for her to cough but there was nothing, no sound, no air ...
Something. One quiet voice behind her. “I’m going to help you ... ” Two skinny arms encircled her, paused for a second and then, shockingly, reverse punched her in the middle. The toffee shot out of her mouth and pinged off the mailbox...
Lynn doubled over and took one ragged, raspy breath and another. Her chest and throat and head hurt but the lovely air just kept coming in and out.
Nearly dead. Not dead at all ....
Lynn tried to find her voice. First there was a just a froggy croak and then she pushed out one word. “Who?”
A woman in a shawl pointed down the street. “There she goes. That girl.” Lynn turned just in time to see a figure in a plaid kilt and knee socks disappear around the corner.
“A shy one, I guess,” said the shawl.

Lynn was madly mining her pockets for a tissue to mop up her laughter-running nose but all she came up with was pocket fluff, a bus transfer and one shred of a prehistoric and petrified Kleenex.
Blossom pushed something into her hand. It was white and absorbent and it smelled like blueberry candles.
Lynn took off her glasses, mopped her eyes and nose and then examined the white thing.
“Is this a sock?”

It was like being inside a machine. It was warm and there was a low hum. Small lights glinted on the ceiling. Pipes overhead. It was all hard-edged metal, precise, businesslike. It was very clean.
It smelled like nothing, this Underland.

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Outside In 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing doesnt flow at all its just sorta mashed together. The dialogue is difficult to keep track of. And the stort just doesnt seem that original. Its hard to tell whats really going on with all the jumbling bits.