Title: Dark Inside
Author: Jeyn Roberts
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Apocalypse, Young Adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s (US) / Macmillan Children’s (UK)
Publication Date: November 2011 (US) / September 2011 (UK)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs…Now it’s our turn. Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening. An ancient evil has been unleashed, turning everday people into hunters, killers, crazies.
Mason’s mother is dying after a terrible car accident. As he endures a last vigil at her hospital bed, his school is bombed and razed to the ground, and everyone he knows is killed. Aries survives an earthquake aftershock on a bus, and thinks the worst is over when a mysterious stranger pulls her out of the wreckage, but she’s about to discover a world changed forever. Clementine, the only survivor of an emergency town hall meeting that descends into murderous chaos, is on the run from savage strangers who used to be her friends and neighbors. And Michael witnesses a brutal road rage incident that is made much worse by the arrival of the police–who gun down the guilty party and then turn on the bystanding crowd.
Where do you go for justice when even the lawmakers have turned bad? These four teens are on the same road in a world gone mad. Struggling to survive, clinging on to love and meaning wherever it can be found, this is a journey into the heart of darkness – but also a journey to find each other and a place of safety.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Dark Inside series
How did I get this book: Bought
Why did I read this book: It’s a new YA apocalyptic disaster novel with an SF/horror twist (aka Thea crack). I’ve been in the mood, so of course I had to buy this one!
The greatest civilizations of man have faced one unfailing inevitability: collapse. By flood, fire, or mysterious disappearance, mankind’s empires have risen and fallen, and the time has come once again for the world to purge itself of civilization.
Mason, in shock after his mother is killed in a car accident, learns that his school has been bombed and all his friends are all gone.
Aries (who is actually a Gemini) is on the bus with her best friend when a vagrant start making terrifying threats and predictions – and then the ground breaks open and all hell is unleashed.
Clementine obediently follows her parents to the town hall in her small, rural town, only to find some kind of madness has taken over some of the friendly adults she has known for her whole life. Following her mother’s desperate instructions, Clementine flees and starts to make her halting way west towards her brother in Seattle.
Michael watches in horror as a deranged driver gleefully murders an innocent bystander – and his horror only grows when the police and others at the scene start killing each other.
Mason, Aries, Clementine, and Michael may not know each other yet, but as they make their way through a violent, crazed world, their paths intersect and converge. An ancient evil has stirred from its long dormant slumber, and while these four teens struggle to survive, a great Nothing filled with madness and fury lurks, hungry to consume anyone and anything in its path.
The concept of Dark Inside is based on a familiar concept – in which trusted friends and rational humans somehow snap (either based on some external pandemic or ailment), and try to murder anyone in their path. Essentially, Dark Inside deals with the same sort of moral conundrums that a zombie outbreak would deal with – sans zombies. Films like The Crazies or books like David Moody’s Hater and Dog Blood have dealt with this particular type of violent senseless insanity. Dark Inside, however, takes things a step further by attributing a more supernatural force (a malignant evil inherent beneath the earth and within man’s psyche) as responsible for the apocalypse, which is a nice twist (if, at times a little cheesy as the narrative alternates between the four teen characters AND a voice for the “Nothing”, aka someone afflicted with this madness).
In a story that is quintessentially familiar – the end of the world and chaos abounding – the differentiation needs to come from characterization and writing, and I’m happy to say that in both of these facets Ms. Roberts does a fantastic job. The four alternating narrators are a nice touch, each exploring a different aspect of the apocalypse and each feeling and sounding distinct. While my favorite storylines involved Clementine and Mason – the two solo travelers – I also enjoyed Aries’ journey as she grapples with a group of fellow students, and Michael, who is refreshingly UN-heroic (honestly, his turning point in the story is my favorite chapter). Most of all, I loved Clementine’s narrative as she focuses on reaching her older brother, no matter the cost, and her internal asides as she addresses him and asks for his advice. On that note, also refreshing about this apocalypse is the fact that, save for Aries, there is no real romance in sight. This is a plot driven by fear and motivated by the need to keep moving, not so much romantic attachments between characters.
By the end of the book, Jeyn Roberts gracefully manages to tie together each of the seemingly disparate storylines and unites our protagonists for their ongoing ordeal. While some parts of the novel are a little hokey and preachy (delineating the evils of mankind and the darkness within), I found myself thoroughly enjoying the story and genuinely caring for the characters. I’ll certainly be back for more.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1 (told from the perspective of “Nothing”):
I’m standing at the edge of existence. Behind me, a thousand monsters descend. Their disguises change with each stride.
When they look in a mirror do they see their true selves?
Arms open wide. In front of me is nothing. No one ever knew how existence would end. Sure, they made assumptions: fire, flood, plague, etc. They studied the skies for locusts and watched for rain. They built their cities, destroyed the forests, and poisoned the water. Warning signs left behind in the ruins of ancient civilizations have been misinterpreted. The sins of mankind are always to blame. But who would have guessed it would be so gray? So empty.
Is there really a way back?
Hello? Is there anyone there?
Sorry, wrong number.
There are too many thoughts to cover in such little time. I knew they would find me. I’m glowing in the moonlight. My darkness was too bright to hide forever. They find all of us eventually. They play the odds, and they’re up a thousand to one.
In front of me is nothing. No bright lights, no darkness. No energy. Just nothing.
There is no future because we no longer have a past. Our present is devised of basic survival, and it’s about to end.
They have made sure of that.
I am Nothing.
I am existence.
I am pain.
I kneel down in the dirt and write some of my last words. I’d speak them, but there is no one left to listen.
Rating: 6 – Good
Reading Next: Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter
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