When you start reading Outshine, you enter a moment of “What the F is going on here?”. The reader is introduced to Gabe, who spits out a bunch of statistical data about history and the people in his class. How does he know the exact percentage of all of this? Why does he feel sick when he hears a lie? Why does he hate the girl behind him?
Turns out that Gabe can detect any lie - and can’t tell any lie himself, because it makes him physically sick. He is later referred to as a “spotter” (as in spotting lies I guess). And the girl behind him is Jessa, the second narrator of this book. Jessa can kick some serious ass, Black Widow style, but hides it from everyone around her. Hence why she literally makes Gabe sick.
But then Gabe gets pulled out of class - his brother Watts is missing and pretty soon Gabe is a suspect. At the same time, Jessa almost gets kidnapped by a bunch of men. These men run project “Outshine” and want to create a supernatural kind of human to save earth from the harm normal humans inflict on it. They’ve got Watts. Will they get Jessa and Gabe?
I started off this book immediately loving Gabe and Jessa. They couldn’t be more different: Gabe is a know-it-all who is extremely frustrated by the world and hates everyone (including his brother Wade). Jessa on the other hand is a popular girly-girl who worries about dates and her nails.
Turns out that neither of them are like that at all. As the story develops, Jessa and Gabe start showing their real personality to each other and to the reader. I absolutely adored this because it makes the book a great character piece.
What do we hide from others? Would we be judged if we showed our true selves? The main characters in Outshine slowly discover that those questions aren’t that easy to answer.
For example, Jessa hides the fact that she could break any door or for the matter, break any person, from all her friends. She pretends to be all girly so that they wouldn’t notice. This weighs on her and when she can finally let herself do what she always wanted to do, which is beat people up, she feels free and allows other people into her life.
Jessa’s development helps Gabe. The less she lies, the more he likes her, because he feels more comfortable around her. He also starts trusting her enough to drop hints that he might have a sixth sense about liars.
The book really is about these two characters and their development throughout the story. But every reader knows that a plot cannot just be about characters - something needs to happen. And oh boy, does stuff happen in Outshine. There are kidnappings, drugs, betrayal, government corruption and even environmental issues. How can you not love that in combination with the character development?
The one thing I didn’t like from this book was Watts. I get that Watts is kidnapped in the beginning of the book, so there really isn’t much development you can give to a character that is missing, but there’s so much talk about him and he comes back in different scenes at different times, that I would have liked something more in-depth. He is portrayed as a jerk who doesn’t care about anyone but, mild spoiler, in the end he does something which is incredibly selfless and kind and caring and… so not the Watts from the whole book. What’s up with that? I believe that not one character is pure evil and I would have liked to have seen more of Watts.
Especially since the real baddy in this book, leader of project Outshine Deacon, is also not really a bad guy. He does bad things, really sick bad things, but his motivation for many of those things is mostly understandable. He wants to save the earth and protect a certain kind of people on it. Is it a bit weird? Yes. Is it evil? Yes. Is he really a bad guy? I didn’t think so. For most of the book, he seemed nicer that Watts, which just couldn’t be correct, since the end makes it clear that Deacon really is the bad guy (but Watts gets no real redemption).
So how to rate this book? Four out of five. It’s definitely a great read and it could have been perfect if Watts was just explored a tiny bit more.