|Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Published by HarperCollins
Publish Date: January 3, 2012
My Source: Borrowed
Under The Never Sky
by Veronica Rossi
Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.
As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.
They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love – one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY. -(summary excerpt from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts: While I was admittedly a little bit confused at the beginning of Under The Never Sky, by its conclusion I was amazed, enamored, and thrilled. How could I not be, really? I completely got sucked into the part-science fiction/part-dystopian world and didn’t want to leave.
The confusion, for me, is in the beginning of the story, which throws us into immediate action. A group of friends – Aria included – have made the choice to break some rules and sneak into an off-limits area when all you-know-what breaks loose and bad things happen. There’s a huge fire and some people are attacked (including Aria) and some people get killed. While the fire burns, Aria is brutally attacked by Soren, the son of one of the governing council members of Reverie. Aria is saved by an Outsider (Perry), who then attacks Soren. After the fire is extinguished and everyone is rescued/recovered, it is determined that Aria and Soren are the only survivors. Aria is questioned as to the events surrounding the break-in and fire, and it is her word against Soren’s. Aria ends up being exiled from Reverie to prevent the truth from coming out…as in, she is loaded onto a Hovercraft, flown far away, and dumped into The Death Shop to fend for herself.
By this time in the story, everything had fallen into place marvelously for me. Please allow me to share:
1. Aria. Strong female protagonist! Although weak in the beginning, she developed to be fierce, independent, and strong by the end. Part of Aria’s charm comes from being so sweetly and stubbornly naive: once she is exiled and found again by Perry, she questions him about EVERYTHING. She is curious about the sky, the wind, flowers, rocks. Aria has lived her entire life in a virtual world where there is no pain or sickness or disease or hunger. She has never even felt hormonal changes or urges before, because all of those things have been genetically manipulated. Once she lives outside, she begins to experience all of these things for the first time. This is a wonderful and interesting part of the story, and it is a fantastic part of Aria’s character. The author chose to make Aria unsure of herself and self-conscious because of her ignorance about everything in the beginning – but by the end she was confidant in herself because of everything she had learned.
2. Perry. Savage (Aria’s words, not mine!), tribesman, tattooed, and handsome. Perry is part of a world where specialized Senses determine your status and station in life. He is Marked with two Senses, making him special and rare. Perry can see well in the dark and he can smell tempers (which basically means he can sense how people are feeling and thinking by their scent). Perry is on a mission to rescue his nephew, who has been kidnapped by Aria’s people. When he coincidentally finds Aria, they realize they each can help each other and thus join forces. He soon realizes that Aria is clueless about life in his world, so he sets to helping her learn to survive. Along the way, the two slowly fall for each other. ~ I pretty much love everything about Perry, and not just because he’s a strong, mighty guy. His character is very well-written, well-developed, and kind.
3. World-building. So interesting, to me, because it seemed like there were two completely separate worlds. Reverie was almost like a science-fiction universe, with scientists, genetics labs, and manipulated bodies and environments as well as hovercrafts and Smarteye devices that allowed travel through virtual Realms. The outside world was the more barbaric of the two, with tribes scattered throughout…and even cannibals. Each society had an interesting hierarchy, and the way the two societies interacted with and feared each other was part of the foundation on which the story was built. They existed side-by-side but they were so vastly different from each other, it was like night and day – a juxtaposition of contrasting societies.
4. Paranormal. There was a slight paranormal element to this story, but I stress that it was slight. It was only a small part of the story and never overrode the larger elements of the story at any point. It was evident to me in the way the Outsiders developed their Senses (which was SO awesome). It was probably more evident in the way the Aether existed – a swirling mass of electrical energy with the power to incinerate entire villages when it rained down like funnel clouds. The Aether was almost a character in and of itself, and was respected by the Outsiders almost like a living being. They treated the Aether as something that could almost be affected by their actions or movements, it seemed, which was the largest paranormal element that I felt this story contained. (Sidenote: I love the way the Aether is shown on the cover of the book, pictured above.)
5. Romance. There is a very slow burning crush that develops into love, that is really lovely. Because of the laws of Perry’s tribe Marked men have to commit to women like them…and Aria is no such woman. Watching this romance bud, slowly but surely, was wonderful and also sort of painful. Perry gives all of these reasons why it is bad for his tribesman to break the tribal law in terms of marriage – the result is always disastrous, and it is heartbreaking. The alternating point-of-view narrative between Perry and Aria gives extra depth into the emotions they experience as they battle what they want versus what they know is best for the tribespeople. The romance portion of this story is one of the most well-thought out and well-executed romances of any of the YA novels I have read this year. Never overbearing, it always ends up showing up in the plot at exactly the right time, and nudges the story exactly in the right direction. Very well done.
6. The Ending. Excellent. No cliffhanger here, folks. I love a nice, well-rounded ending that brings some resolution but leaves an opening for another book in a series. This ending was a bit unexpected to me, but I closed the book feeling satisfied, happy, and patiently eager for the next book, which is a wonderful feeling. There is great resolution to most of the open questions up to that point, and the ones that are left unanswered will be excellent starting places for the next book in the series. When I started the book, I was confused and unsure of how it would turn out despite being intrigued and excited about the concept of the novel…but by the end, I knew that I was completely sold on this series and will read the next book the very second that a copy comes anywhere within driving distance of me!
In short, here are the reasons you should add this to your reading list ASAP:
- Well-developed, fantastic characters that continue to mature as the story progresses.
- Excellent world-building with a very slight paranormal element that is fresh and new.
- Slow-burning crush that develops sweetly into a reluctant romance. The couples always put the needs of others before their own desires, which is refreshing.
- Well-rounded & resolved ending without a cliffhanger, but with room for a solid start to the next installment in this series.
If you are a fan of YA science-fiction with a small side of dystopian, please add Under The Never Sky to your to-be-read list. If you are a fan of a strong female protagonist or well-developed or maturing characters, add this to your list! If you are a fan of a slow-burning romance vs. insta-love and/or love triangles, this book might be the one for you. The story is unique and thrilling and exciting and lovely, and I can’t wait for the world to be able to get their hands on it!
*I received a copy of this book to read in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review. Thank you HarperCollins!