Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Title: Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1)
Author: Veronica Rossi
Published: January 03, 2012
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

My thoughts: **POSSIBLE SPOILERS!**

Aria lives in the safety of a closed-in city called Reverie. It's a world filled with virtual perfection. Devices called “Smarteyes” take the people of Reverie (and other Pods just like it) into the “Realms”. Realms are virtual places where life is experienced exactly as you want, literally. Everything you want or need, you simply think of it and there it is. Instant gratification. Who needs the “Real”?

The outside world is a wasteland filled with dangers. There are people there as well - Outsiders, Savages. They live in tribes; some good, some bad. There are also Aether storms that wreak havoc on the world almost daily. The Aether was the reason people began living in Pods in the first place. They say there are a million ways to die on the outside - therefore it has been deemed “The Death Shop” - a place no one is supposed venture.

One night, Aria breaks the rules. She, along with her best friend Pasiley, a boy named Soren, as well as two other boys, enter one of the Domes - a definite no no. Aria has her reasons for wanting to do this, but the boys are there just for the thrill. After Soren shuts down the security, it's a free-for-all. Soren starts a fire - a real fire, which none of these kids have ever seen before. As the fire quickly spreads to an uncontrollable degree, Soren begins to lose his mind. He attacks Aria and brutally tears her Smarteye from her face. In the midst of the turmoil, Aria barely notices when a Savage appears inside the Dome. With the security disabled, it shouldn't be a surprise, but it is nonetheless.

Perry, the Savage, sees Aria being attacked and decides to help. This changes Aria's life forever.

Aria awakens in a hospital with a fuzzy memory of the night before. Since she is the only coherent one to make it out, she is taken to Soren's father (a very powerful man inside Reverie) to recount the events. Aria ends up having the blame placed completely on her and is cast out of Reverie to the Outside; to The Death Shop.

Aria has never felt more alone.

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This is easily one of the best books I've read this year so far. I've read almost 100, so that's great odds. ;) Under the Never Sky is a truly beautiful story - and truly unique. It is like nothing I've ever read and I am so happy I was able to finally read it.

Veronica Rossi has created a gritty, yet beautiful world. Anything can happen in the Realms and I find that fascinating. The people living in the Pods are so uneducated about their immediate surroundings. When Aria's Smarteye was removed and she experienced the “Real”, as they call it, she was baffled! Baffled by how dull everything looked in comparison. She was completely distraught, like she was missing a limb or two. You have to admit though... who wouldn't want to spend the majority of their time in the Realms? A virtual paradise where you can have anything you want. Niiiice. No wonder these people are so delusional. Then we have the Outside. The Aether alone is thrilling. The deathly storms. The way it looks. Between the gorgeous cover and Rossi's descriptive writing, I could picture the beauty of the sky perfectly. I think, although deadly, the Aether-filled sky gave everything a magical feel and made this world achingly beautiful. The people living outside the Pods - the Outsiders, they are even more interesting. Some of them have developed heightened senses from being exposed to the Aether. Perry, our male protag, has two heightened senses. His sight - he can see in the dark like an some animals can. His smell - he can literally smell people's feelings and emotions. He knows when someone is near simply by sniffing air. He knows when Aria is angry, sad, embarrassed, when she is, er... turned on (by him!), when she feels anything. That element alone gave the book an entirely different sort of twist and I loved it so very much! Rossi obviously thought all of this out very thoroughly. I am extremely impressed with her unique ideas!

I guess that brings me to the characters themselves. Aria and Perry could not be more opposite in the beginning. They are disgusted by each other and only tolerate one another because they both serve a purpose to the other. Aria needs Perry to help her survive the Outside and Perry needs Aria because he needs to get inside a Pod. The tension (both good and bad) between these two had me feeling many things. Some of it was comical, some made my heart race, and other times I wanted to slap one or both of them. Throughout the book, they slowly become closer and more understanding of each other and how they live. Things change in a perfectly paced manner. By the end of the book, they find out they have more in common than either of them imagined. That brings me to the romance, of course, which was amazing and incredibly moving. This is where the dual-narrative came in handy for me. Reading how both of them felt about the other had a great effect on me. I was so completely attached to these characters and their relationship that I was in tears on more than one occasion. The romance in this story was not overdone, but was truly beautiful and personally moving for me. I have to say it's right up there in my top 5 right now as far as YA books go.

“She absorbed the terror and beauty of him and his world. Of every moment over the past days. All of it, filling her up like the first breath she'd ever taken. And never had she loved life more.”

This plot is quite intricate. There is much more than just a romance between Perry and Aria going on. First we have Roar, Perry's close friend. He is in love with Perry's sister, Liv, who was sold off to another tribe leader as a mate so that Perry's tribe could have food. I won't give it away, but I think Liv and Roar will play a big part in book 2. Then there is Cinder, a young boy with immense powers unlike anything anyone has ever seen. Again, I think he will play a big part in book 2 and possibly the entire series. Then there are the tribes as a whole. There are cannibals out there looking for revenge on Perry. The tribes have leaders called Blood Lords, and some of the things that go on are quite primitive. For example: The title of Blood Lord; a Blood Lord can be challenged and defeated in a battle - one in which the loser must pledge to the winner or die. Then you have situations like the one with Liv. I mean, they traded her for food, like she is a thing! Terrible. I am wondering if having Aria around will change things within the tribes? Maybe, I don't know. That's not even really touching the tip of the iceberg with the plot either. There is oodles more going on and there are plenty of twists and surprises to keep you entertained. There is so much going on that laying it all out in a review would make it much too long (not that I haven't already made it so, lol) Lets just say that this book is a profound opener for the series and I am almost dying to read the second installment.

Overall? Under the Never Sky is unlike anything I've ever read. For those of you out there that are completely sick of dystopia/post-apocalyptic - you still need to read this. I promise you it's worth it and it'll leave you with your jaw hanging open at the end. The plot is intricate and completely packed with wonderful characters, dire situations, and twists and turns to rival any book out there. The romance is intense and incredibly beautiful. It's a wonderful example of how opposites attract. The story had me in tears and it was a true roller coaster of emotions. The world Veronica Rossi has built is intriguing and magical, gritty and savage. It's everything I hoped it would be and more. It's an enchanting tale of survival, betrayal, understanding, and love - all wrapped up with a spectacularly beautiful ending (a cliffhanger, to be exact). Under the Never Sky is a must-read for any fan of the YA genre.

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Book source: Personal collection
Publisher: HarperCollins