Imagine being sixteen years old, waiting patiently in a coffee shop for your mother to pick you up after work. It's just another day, until two shaken teens with guns show up and take you and a number of other patrons hostage. Suddenly there are cops surrounding the building, promising SWAT teams and armored vehicles if the hostage-takers don't give up. What sort of emotions do you feel? Fear? Anger? Disbelief? Did I mention fear? Yes, if you're a typical sixteen-year old, those are most likely the emotions you would feel. But if you're Zach Wahhsted, a teenager suffering from schizophrenia, you don't feel much of anything at all.
Zach's days are pretty routine--he takes his medicine, he goes to school, he waits for his mom to pick him up and give him his second dose of medicine, and he hopes that the voices inside his head, dubbed Dirtbag and Rat, stay quiet. Zach does okay when he stays on his medicine, but when he suffers undue stress or situations outside of his control, what's reality and what's inside his head become harder to differentiate.
When Zach's held hostage by two teens caught up in trying to do the right thing for their mother, he doesn't know he should be scared. He doesn't understand that he's a victim. The only thing he knows is that he needs his medicine, needs to go home, needs to quiet Dirtbag and Rat before they talk him into attempting suicide once again.
INSIDE OUT, although a quick read, is supremely powerful. It's a glimpse into the mind of someone whose brain functions differently than our own; whose synapses don't fire on the same wavelengths ours do. It's a look into mental illness that will leave you wondering what you can do to be more tolerant and understanding. It is, in a word, simply amazing.
Reviewed by: Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius"