Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova
After several years as a junior high math teacher, Brad Shepherd is unceremoniously forced out of his job following the overdose of one of his students. Unsure of where his life is going, Brad decides to leave St. Louis and join his friends on the island of Put-In-Bay, Ohio for the summer.
A small island a short drive and ferry ride away from Cleveland, Put-In-Bay comes alive in the summer when the hordes of tourists descend upon it to partake in drinking, drugs and other forms of entertainment. To Brad, it is the perfect form of escape. He quickly finds a job as a “bouncer” at the local bar where he befriends Cinch Stevens, the local drug dealer.
Once a teacher and an all-around responsible adult, Brad has few qualms about partaking in Cinch’s party-all-day-and-night lifestyle. Excessive drinking turns into lines of cocaine which turn into ecstasy, shrooms and anything else they can get their hands on. Brad’s sexual conquests are equally adventurous but he pines for Astrid, a Norwegian college student and waitress that gives him the hot and cold treatment.
As Brad spirals further and further out of control and his escapades with Cinch reach a dangerous level, he has to come to terms with the fact that he is losing – not finding – himself on this island that was supposed to be his saving grace.
I originally picked up Outside In because I live in Cleveland and am very familiar with the book’s setting. Doug Cooper’s debut novel is definitely a fun and often jaw-dropping book that also made me stop and ponder how easy it can be for any of us to be in Brad’s place. “Finding yourself” seems to be the fad these days but forcing the issue can often lead to one wrong choice after another. In Brad’s case, letting go instead of molding himself into his new friends’ partying lifestyles would have been the wiser option.
I enjoyed Cooper’s writing and look forward to reading more from him.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Greenleaf Book Group Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.