One of my favourite ways to relax over the Winter Break is tucking in to my long list of Forest of Reading books.  After a few busy days of holiday celebrations, I found a quiet moment this morning to sift through my “to-read” pile.  After much deliberation of what title to choose, I settled on the Red Maple Fiction novel Outside In by Sarah Ellis.

Outside In is a relatively short, quirky story about a fairly typical teenage girl who encounters a very atypical girl and her family who are living off the grid.  Main characters Lynn and Blossom form an unusual friendship after a near-death experience which creates conflict with Lynn’s friends at school as well as her impulsive and sometimes unreliable mother.  Blossom is revealed to be an “Underlander”: a name for people who live unnoticed by the world.  Without a home, education, or employment that meet  contemporary societal norms, Blossom and her family teach Lynn how to make her own mark on the world and how everything has a purpose even if it’s not apparent at first glance.

Overall, Outside In offers some thought-provoking ideologies around such themes as homelessness, social inequity, friendship, and family.  The story is often compelling and the characters unique.  I am curious to see how our Grade 7 and 8 readers respond to this novel once the Red Maple reading program starts up in January.