3.5 starsHere’s the thing about me and horror: it’s not so much the content as the source that bothers me. Which is not to say I’m not terrified by scary things, because I am. Absurdly so. But always in the back of my mind is the question: where did this come from? It has always been much more disturbing for me to know that someone, somewhere, came up with whatever horrific scene is playing out on screen or on the page. That even the most unrealistic scenrios were born in very real places, and the most horrible things we can imagine were spawned in the human mind. So if you ask me what I find truly terrifying, I guess I would say human capacity for evil. I find that idea infinitely more disturbing than say, a zombie apolocalypse. And this is why Dark Inside worked for me as a genuinely scary story, because it’s about humanity unleashing their own evil upon the world. While this is immediately apparent in an obvious sense, as a suddenly released evil takes over much of mankind and causes them to become killing-machines, there is also a more subtle form. As those not overtaken and turned into “monsters” are forced to fight for their survival, they are also faced with situations in which their moral compasses are no longer effective. Previously unthinkable actions become necessity. And fear causes even the most well-intentioned do abhorrent things. Dark Inside is told through five perspectives, which sounds unwieldy, but actually works fairly effectively for the story. Mason, Aries, Clementine and Michael are four teenagers battling to stay alive after the murderous rage (apparently instigated by a series of massive earthquakes) appears to have taken over most of the population. Their dawning cognizance of what is happening around them, and their reactions to it, essentially forms the bulk of the story; each of them trying to survive and navigate their way to relative safety. The fifth perspective, “Nothing,” gives a voice and context to the darkness enveloping the majority of humanity, while remaining eerily evasive and difficult to get a handle on. This is a grim, violent book that doesn’t pull punches, particularly when it comes to individual characters’ actions. But it’s not just the brutality that’s depicted, occasionally the most shocking thing about this story is the choices the characters’ make, and then the consequences of those decisions. It’s not a predictable book, in that Roberts doesn’t shelter her characters, and she compels the reader to question them. They do unsympathetic things. They may or may not be or remain “good” people. There’s an intensely unsettling atmosphere about the novel, on the basis of this uncertainy around some of the characters, and it makes for fast reading. While at a surface level this reads like an action-based novel, (which it is), I was surprised by how much Roberts was able to develop the characters in a limited amount of page time. Given the number of narrators and the rapid progression of the plot, a considerable amount of insight into each of the teenagers is provided, particularly through the choices they make to survive. Granted, it does at times feel very much as if this novel is laying the foundation, establishing the characters to be further developed as the series continues, but the charactersation is done well. The novel is written in the third person (with the exception of “Nothing”’s voice), yet Roberts manages to keep the characters distinct. It would have been easy for the viewpoints to blur in a novel of this pacing, but their storylines are substantial and fleshed-out so that they remain unambiguous. Dark Inside sets itself from much of the apocalyptic YA fiction of late because it doesn’t adhere to the tropes and developments common to those novels. This book feels unpredictable, and almost unapologetic in its confronting content. There are no guarantees made, no assurances that things are going to turn out as expected. (By expected I mean as dictated by a lot of current apoc/dystopian YA – goodness prevails, love interests survive blah blah blah). I’m curious to see where Roberts is taking this story, and while there’s a measure of closure at the end of Dark Inside, there are more than enough questions left unresolved to make me pick up the sequel.