The Place Inside the Storm

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 06 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

The cover is interesting. I got a sense for a dystopian, possibly ost apocalyptic society al its immediately. The description of the book seemed action packed and while it definitely got me to want to read it, I felt like I had already read the whole book. The description of the book felt less like a hook, and more like a summary of synopsis of the entire novel. I think if the author just used a maximum of 5-6 sentences describing the book, ending with the final question of whether Tara is destined to fit in with this future society, would entice the reader into reading the book a lot more.
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With the topic of early biomarkers and pre-natal testing popping up throughout autism research, the topic of the erasure and alteration of neurodiverse minds seems both ideal as a concept within a dystopian future and realistic possibility of something which could actually happen. In 'The Place Inside The Storm', the reader follows Tara Rivers and the journey she undertakes after learning that her parents intend to give the go-ahead for an implant to be put in her brain that will change her behaviour and thoughts. That will make her more "pro-social".

Feeling like she has no other choice, Tara and her robot cat, Xel, make a run for it. With no real direction or plan, a chance encounter leads them to Loki and Aeon. When it becomes clear that Loki has also suffered at the hand of the corporation - and in a serious way - Tara, Xel and Loki embark on the long journey back to where Tara used to live, seeking help for Loki. Along the way, their destination and plans change and they become part of something bigger.

The book is easy to read and engage with, with quick paced action scenes interspaced with slower sections or sections with more dialogue. There is a sense of struggle in many scenes and even though Xel can literally access information from all over the place, they still come up against obstacles and barriers they cannot completely avoid and have to scrap their way out of.

The characters are likeable and interesting, with Xel being a stand-out character as both Tara's friend and protector. The bond between Tara and Xel and their interactions were  done in such a way that their friendship was undeniable, yet you never forgot that Xel was a robot cat - and it worked. The corporation also felt like a character - it's oppressive presence being felt and referenced throughout the book. I felt that there was scope for a little more conflict or reflection on the actions of the mother of Tara's old friend, especially as her actions demonstrated the reach of the corporation. That said, I can also appreciate the need for the story to be kept moving so the fast pace of the actions reflected the internal state of the characters.

Alongside the physical journey that Tara undertakes, there is a co-running emotional journey that Tara makes towards understanding and accepting herself in a world that doesn't accept people who are too different. The wrap-up of this comes through powerfully at the end of the book, even though there remains a tinge of sadness to it. In many ways, this also feels real because there are rarely perfect happy endings.


Autistic Rep

Tara doesn't know what autism is at the beginning of the book, and she certainly has no idea that she is autistic herself. The corporation have been highly successful in reducing - borderline eliminating - neurodiverse minds within society. She does, however, know that she is different to her peers - much like many autistic children do on some level - and struggles to understand where she fits in the world. While in the world created by Wright, Tara doesn't know what autism is because of the corporation's design, in many ways the process is similar to the realisation that many autistic teenagers go through when they first realise they're different.

Without succumbing to stereotypes, Wright creates a realistic representation of an autistic teenager. His descriptions of Tara's impending meltdowns and her sensory overload come across as genuine and real, and while she Tara does refer to eye contact (or lack of) a few too many times - in that it becomes noticeable - the scenarios in which it is discussed make sense. Later in the book, there is a section where information about autism is provided to Tara in a manner which ends up being a bit too "info-dumping" and stilted and it jars the flow of the book for a few pages.

When other autistic people are introduced later in the book, there are only fleeting moments where different representations of autism are discussed but this did include a brief scene with a non-speaking autistic person who used AAC.


Wrap-Up

Tara and Xel are likeable protagonists in this young adult adventure and, a few sections aside, the story flowed well with peaks of action and the periods of reflection and character development and growth. The story was quite straight-forward and you can kind of see where it's going to end up from about midway but the read is enjoyable all the same. In terms of autistic rep, I think Tara is a good addition to the pool of fictional autistic characters, particularly for the young adult range.
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4/5 stars for a Scifi/Dystopian novel with a very relatable and ownvoices autistic main character.

“Being weird is okay.”

There are two words which are very prominent in my notes for this ARC: same and relatable. The way Tara felt emotions from her parents wash over her, the way her sister Zoie said she was lazy, the way she’d been bullied, the way her brain felt out of phase with her brain, the way she hid her true self, her loneliness, her social awkwardness, her meltdowns… I’ve honestly never read a book with a main character who’s so much like me. And I know not everyone cares about representation in fiction, but I do. I don’t always want to be inside of the head of someone I don’t fully understand. I did understand Tara, and that was nice for a change.

But enough about the main character. The story itself was very interesting. A world in which corporations have taken over and decided to put implants in people’s head to make them all fit the norm… that world is really just a few steps above the world we live in right now. And that thought is scary. When Tara finds out they want to do this to her, she decides to go on a run with her AI bobcat Xel. As they flee, you can really see the bond between the two and how both their talents come to use.

The world Wright created is one of the few dystopias I do see happening at some point. The technology and the emotions of the main character are quite well-described. However, I did miss more description of the actual environment and I will admit that because this is an ARC, there were some minor mistakes/typos.

The pacing throughout the book is decent. A big portion of the book is a repetative process of Tara and Xel trying to get from one place to the other. This process doesn’t really get too slow or too fast, if you know what I mean. And the constant travel stays interesting, as you learn more about the world, meet new characters, etc.

I do feel that as a non-American I might have missed out on some things. It took me a while to understand what they meant by PacNW (Pacific North-West) and such, and that’s something which could easily be avoided. (Or maybe I’m just an idiot, I don’t know).

There is one character in this book whose name I won’t mention as to not to spoil anything, and I like how the author made sure he wasn’t portrayed or seen as a burden. He wasn’t used as a plot device, but as an actual person.

Also, it was very refreshing not to have an insta-romance for once. Again, I’m not going to spoil this, but the relationships in overal in this book were well-written.

A thing that might be problematic is that the ‘evil’ corporation that wants to put in implant into Tara’s head is known by a Chinese name. It feels like a bit of a stereotype, as the corporation is very controlling and all, but I don’t think I can speak for such things.

Near the end of the book, autism gets explained. This is nice, but it’s done in a bit of an info-dumpy way, which is a shame.

Overall, I enjoyed this ARC and am glad my friend Ayah made me aware of its existance. Thanks to the author and Netgally for giving me the opportunity to read and review this.
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I try to avoid YA but gave this a try. Decent story with good character development. Not disappointed.
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While it was a little confusing in the beginning, I fell in love with this book. Not only is it a little out of what I’m used to, but the pace is lovely. I wanted a change and I’m glad this book is what I chose. The characters are very well explained and I really enjoyed that as well.
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As dystopian stories go, The Place Inside the Storm is an average read. The plot is intriguing. The characters are likeable. Overall, however, something is missing. Perhaps the story line could have been tighter and the characters more substantial. Overall an okay read. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5

This book caught my eye while perusing the “Read Now” options on my newly-acquired NetGalley account. Since I am constantly seeking new voices in my literary pursuits, I embraced the chance to get to know a neurodivergent character. 

What I liked: Tara, though thrust into a really trash situation, manages not to completely break down immediately, as I imagine I would have in her place. Tara’s logic, resourcefulness, and determination shine. She doesn’t always know what to do in social situations, but she can write code well enough to alter the AI software of her pet bobcat, Xel – an impressive feat on advanced technology. Xel, meanwhile, is steadfast and caring, and though his access to the Internet allows him to overcome human limitations in things like navigation, he grows and learns about humans as well. 

Tara must survive once she flees the corporation and survive, she does -- with the help Xel, people like who she might have been (casualties of a desire to inflict corporate culture upon individuals), and people who see the indecency and inhumanity in forced brain alteration (luckily, it’s not a small amount). In a book about identity and acceptance that differences don’t need to be assimilated, it’s wonderful to see some neurotypical people accommodating neurodivergent people’s needs, rather than asking them to adhere to societal social standards. It’s interesting to see a space where a lack of eye contact is considered the polite norm, rather than asocial. 

The things I didn’t like were perhaps more on my end than anything: I had a hard time suspending my disbelief about an attacking horde of rats in a sewer (which leads to an important plot point), but perhaps my knowledge of rats does not include that behavior. I also thought the time frame (a mere twenty years in the future) seemed far-fetched for some of the technology, world alterations, and attitudes, but I also understand that the world has made some significant changes in the last twenty years so that’s probably me nitpicking. There were parts that could use editing (some grammatical errors, as well as information that I don’t feel needs to be explained every time, like characters bidding “good night”) and overall the writing didn’t have the sort of evocative imagery that I like: descriptions were straightforward and while Tara is said to enjoy reading, she doesn’t describe her environment effusively. 

Overall, I appreciated Wright’s handling of Tara’s situation: as far as I could tell, she didn’t seem a caricature of autism and though she receives help from many along the way, she has agency. I liked the respect she encounters from adults in several situations as well: they don’t try to manipulate her or expect that she might do something for them due to age dynamics. While there’s a twisted premise in forced brain alteration to make someone neurotypical, Wright’s portrayal of the resistance to that reads as very human, which is what I want out of a story.
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I'm not sure what this book was trying to be. The plot seemed to be all over the place. Was it a scifi or a dystopian? I loved the idea of AI pets and Xel the cat was the character who shined the brightest. 

Thank you for the opportunity to read and review The Place Inside the Storm.
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Fall foliage is beginning to transform into bare branches and blanketed snow, and the colder the weather gets, the more reason readers have for staying indoors with a cozy new read. Whether you're in the mood for a steamy romance, heart-pounding thriller, or riveting historical fiction, there's a book for everyone on this list. Check out our list of the best books winter 2018 has to offer, complete with publishers' descriptions.
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