Series: Under the Never Sky
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books on January 3rd 2012
Genres: Post Apocalyptic, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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WORLDS KEPT THEM APART.
DESTINY BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER.
Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.
Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive.
If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers.
This is a difficult book to review. I want to start off by saying this is not a bad book. I think this book will appeal to a lot of people, but at the same time will turn others off. I was, for the most part, turned off. I really don’t think it is my kind of book, which is strange considering dystopian is my favorite sub-genre. And if I’m really being honest here, I feel a little conned by this being marketed as dystopian. Sci-Fi, yes. Dystopian, no. Maybe post-apocalyptic, but even that is pushing it. Recently, another GoodReads reviewer Marg reviewed this book and her feelings regarding it’s placement in the dystopian genre mirror my own.
Aria lives in a world where her people live in pods and fear the outside world dubbed The Death Shop due to the cannibals and Aether storms that wreak havoc on the land. Her people spend almost all of their time in virtual reality Realms rarely attempting to live in the Real. One day Aria is exiled from her pod city, Reverie, and embarks on a journey with an outsider named Perry to find her way back into her society.
The premise of Under the Never Sky vaguely reminds me of The Reality Bug because it has the same general idea of people in the future too busy in their virtual reality worlds to come outside and play. So, I was excited to read Under the Never Sky because the possibilities with it are endless and I applaud Rossi for going outside the YA “box” and doing something different. Unfortunately, I don’t think that potential was really tapped into in this book. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What I really want to talk about is what I did like first.
I did like the characters. In fact, I liked them all except for Aria. I think Perry was well-developed and I felt I could easily sympathize with his situation throughout the novel. Roar, a good friend of Perry’s that we meet halfway through the book, was awesome. I loved his humor and I always felt like I enjoyed the scenes best that involved him. Aria fell short for me. I understand she was going through a lot in the story, but I never really felt connected to her. Though, admittingly, this could have to do with the fact that I’m not a fan of third person PoV narratives. Still, I found Aria rather annoying in the beginning. For example, there is one scene in the novel where she and Perry are stopping to rest in a cave and Perry tells her to stay in the cave so he can hunt. Now, Aria has zero survival skills because she has never needed them ever, but what does she do? She wanders on her own in search of berries. Did she stop to think they could be poisonous? NO. How about a wild animal mauling her to death? NO. Or maybe even getting lost? NO. As a result of her little adventure, she ends up getting her and Perry in a serious bind. So, along with survival skills, people living in pods also do not possess common sense either. *sigh* Thankfully, there *is* character growth for her and she did grow on me by the end of the book. I wouldn’t call us BFFs, but I no longer had the urge to fling my Kindle across the room.
I also enjoyed how Rossi played with the Outsiders having heightened senses. Perry, in particular, has a heightened sense of smell enabling him to smell emotions. That was pretty cool, but there were a few awkward parts with regards to this special skill. Like, say, knowing when your female companion is on her period. Yikes! Talk about uncomfortable. Other than that, there were times when it felt like he was one *sniff* away from becoming man’s best friend. *sniff* Just throw him the damn ball, Aria!
Whose a good boy, Perry? You are!
That is pretty much where the “likes” end for me friends.
So, let’s cut to the chase and get down to it. Two words: World Building. If you are reading a dystopian novel there are a few things that are kinda, sorta important. We need to know what stuff is, how it works, why the world has come to be where it is, information about how the society is run, ect. You know, basic dystopian elements. That is where this book lacks the most. The reader is flung into the story, head first, without any background information. We don’t know what caused Aria’s society to live in pods. We know nothing about her society except that they have these realms. We know nothing about the Aether or the Unity. This is the most background information we are given:
The Aether didn’t look like something that could put an end to the world, yet that had nearly happened during the Unity.
And speaking of the Aether, that angered me the most. It is talked about ALL THE TIME, but it is NEVER EXPLAINED. What is an Aether storm? I don’t know and neither will you. Unless, of course, you are a mind reader. If you are, please share the secrets of this universe with me! There were so many holes in the story that I just could.not.compute. Throwing around capitalized words does not impress me.
The writing style was another issue for me. I had a lot of trouble getting into the beginning. In fact, I almost wanted to give up, but I was told to stick with it because “the beginning is rough, but it’s worth it in the end.” Hmm…Ok, yeah. I didn’t see it that way. I’d say a little more than the first half is very rough. I found it difficult to keep up with what was going one because not a lot of time is used to describe what was happening. One minute the characters are having a conversation and the next sentence they are walking in the forest. This book could have used better transitioning. It didn’t feel “smooth” to me. However, my fellow readers are right. The book is noticeably better during the last half.
If only the first half could get it’s act together!
All in all, again, this isn’t a bad book, but clearly holds the markings of newbie mistakes. I will most likely check out the sequel because I like where Rossi is going with things and who knows? Maybe she will surprise me.
ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.