The fates of two young students remain forever changed when two parallel realms intersect in this YA fantasy novel.
Nese’s (Shelter in Place, 2014) second work of fiction follows the story of Eden, a young girl abandoned by her biological parents. Eden’s world is divided into two halves: Inside and Outside. Along with her adoptive father, Mitch, Eden lives Inside, in a contemplative, simple place of relative security. Nevertheless, the girl is fascinated by the idea of visiting Outside, eager to know more about the postindustrial dystopia, where the air is poisoned, any complaint can be solved by taking a pill, and inhabitants stare mindlessly at mobile devices. Mitch works as a teacher with troubled youth Outside and introduces Eden to Sterling, a rebellious, spoiled student from a wealthy, influential family. The two click immediately and develop an enduring friendship, exchanging daily letters. Eventually Eden introduces Sterling to Inside. When Eden manages to get a place in Sterling’s school on the Outside, the other students perceive her as something of an oddball, and she struggles to cope with Mitch’s worsening health. She also becomes more aware of her mysterious abilities: “I can make things happen using my will, bad things. I’ve tried to control it, but I like the power too.” Eden’s time Outside also brings her closer to Sterling and invigorates her determination to learn more about her biological parents. Her investigation leads to a startling discovery just as her relationship with Sterling comes under threat from his meddlesome, power-hungry father, Avarice Silver. Avarice has an incriminating link to Eden’s enigmatic past and will stop at nothing to keep her away from his son. Ultimately, the two students discover their divergent destinies could tear their friendship asunder. The novel establishes an engaging world early on and allows its intriguing characters to develop slowly, even with its brisk narrative pace. The dichotomy between the contemplative, spiritual Inside and the harried, materialistic Outside should pique readers’ interest. The plot reworks and refracts the fundamental stories of Christian theology through an unorthodox lens. While Eden and Sterling seem conventional enough at the outset, their growth and evolution defy expectations. Though some may feel the story ends too abruptly, in some sense this is a testament to the richness of its setting and protagonists.
A tantalizing glimpse into a captivating world and an intense friendship sure to leave readers wanting more.