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Inside Out by Jack Kearney

Danny Belson is your typical actor wannabe in Hollywood who scrubs toilets, mails head shots, goes to auditions, and attends acting workshops while hoping to get a break. Things start looking up for Danny when he becomes friends with Vince, an East Coast transplant who receives lots of invites to Hollywood parties. When Vince allows Danny to tag along, Danny makes a big impression on a studio head and finds himself in the running for a prime part in a major film production.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

When production of the film falls through, Danny is back at square one; except now he has an agent and connections who can help him find gigs. While waiting for another break, Danny finds himself recruited by his acting workshop's leader, Ellie, to assist her with the acting workshop that she runs at the Lompoc medium-security prison.

During the two-week workshop, Danny gives the inmates a glimpse into the real world of acting; in return, several of the inmates give Danny lessons on prison lingo and survival. Danny and several of the inmates develop friendships, but not everyone wants to play nice. During the second week of the workshop, one of the inmates, Jerry, finds Danny's critique of his acting ability hard to swallow, and starts a fight with Danny. When the guards intervene, Danny plays it off as a workshop activity; winning over the inmates who had started bonding with Danny, but it is not enough for Jerry who leaves the workshop. Some of the workshop's participants joke that Danny should commit a crime to join their drama club; a joke that is soon to become a reality for Danny.

A few months after the workshop, Danny finally catches a break when he gets a star-making role and meets the girl of his dreams. After securing her promise for a date that same night, he shoots a few rounds of pool before going to pick up his date from her "day job." On his way to meet her, he accidentally hits a woman with his car and kills her. Unfortunately for Danny, the victim's secret lover is the wife of a city councilman and is involved in credit card fraud; which she sets Danny up for. Danny is found guilty of negligent homicide and credit card fraud, and is sent to Lompoc prison.

Prison life is hard for Danny; despite his friends' best efforts, he is beaten and brutalized. During his time at the prison, Danny is transformed from a carefree, naive aspiring actor into a cold and calculating man as he plots revenge against the inmates that brutalized him and figures out a way to clear himself of the charges. Will Danny get his revenge? Can Danny get the information he needs to clear himself of the charges? 

The tone and language of Inside Out by Jack Kearney reminds me of Shawshank Redemption; gritty, dark, bleak, and brutally honest. I liked that the story is realistic; who hasn't caught a big break in their lives, and had it ripped away from them in one form or another? I enjoyed how the story ended; not everyone's lives changed for the better, and Danny's friends brutally revealed some harsh realities. Finally, I liked Inside Out because it is set a place that is de-humanizing, corrupt, harsh, violent, and vile; however, readers will see the humanity in the story. Ironically, the humanity in the story is demonstrated by the inmates rather than the "peacekeepers." As you know, I am a sucker for social commentary in literature, and Inside Out has plenty of it!

Trigger Warning: There is one instance of rape and several instances of physical violence in the book. These scenes are not extremely graphic, but readers who are sensitive to this may want to exercise some caution when reading the book.

If you enjoyed Shawshank Redemption, give Inside Out by Jack Kearney a try; you will not be disappointed!
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