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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Under the Never Sky Combines Familiar and Orginal—in the Best Kind of Way

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The world outside her Pod may be a disease-ridden, nightmare-awful "Death Shop," but inside, 17-year-old Aria is kept perfectly safe. Perfectly. Safe. She feels no pain, no fear, no discomfort. Not "in the real" anyway. If she wants a little excitement—or romance or adventure or even a good scare—she only has to enter the Realms, a series of virtual worlds that exist inside the Smarteye she wears at all times. Aria can experience anything she wants in these faux environments without risking a thing. The Realms' slogan says it all: "Better Than Real."

When an acquaintance suggests a stunt guaranteed to provide some real thrills, Aria agrees to go along with it for one reason—she needs information about her missing mother. What she gets, astonishingly enough, is banishment. Forced to survive in the very hostile world outside the Pod, Aria has no choice but to put her trust in an unlikely ally. Perry is an 18-year-old Outsider who hates "Moles" like Aria just as much as they loathe "Savages" like him. But, since she can't find her mother without his help and he can't get what he wants without her, they strike a deal. It's a tense, infuriating partnership that both want to dissolve as soon as possible.

As Aria and Perry fight their way through a treacherous land full of every kind of enemy, they come to some startling realizations about each other, like the fact that maybe they're not so different after all. When Aria makes some even bigger discoveries about her home, her family and herself, she 's forced to admit that Perry's right about one thing at least: nothing under the Never Sky is ever what it seems. Not her home, not herself, and especially not the Savage on whom she's come to depend so wholly. But what does that mean for Aria? Does she have a home? A family? A future? And when Perry walks away after fulfilling his end of their bargain, will she have anything left at all?

Under the Never Sky, a debut novel by Veronica Rossi, combines a whole bunch of dystopian elements to create a tale that's at once familiar and original. In this case, "the usual" doesn't bother me, predictable though it may be. Why? Because Rossi takes the time to create a fascinating world, build a believable romance, and develop a plotline that veers in enough directions to keep the story interesting. Taut plotting kept me on the edge of my seat, while Rossi's careful character-construction ensured that I cared—and cared a lot—about what was happening and to whom. This patchwork quilt of a story (a little dystopian, a little paranormal, a little romance) kept me so enthralled that I read it in one day. And wanted more, more, more. In case you can't tell, I loved it. A lot.

(Readalikes: Parts of it reminded me of Feed by M.T. Anderson; other parts reminded me of Delirium by Lauren Oliver and the Chaos Walking series [The Knife of Never Letting Go; The Ask and the Answer; and Monsters of Men] by Patrick Ness)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), sexual innuendo/content and violence

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Under the Never Sky from the generous folks at HarperTeen. Thank you!


  1. I'm hearing good things about this one and trying really hard not to get too excited. I hope it's good but if I go in all excited and hopes high it'll ruin it for me. Glad to see you liked it, though.

  2. I'm hearing good things about this one. Looking forward to giving it a try.

  3. I am *still* waiting for the bookstore in CA to send me my signed copy! Gee whiz.

  4. I *LOVED* this book! I agree that there are some of the usual dystopian points in the book, but I thought that in changing the book to be more about rescuing those they care for, Veronica changed the dystopian to an original. All the others I feel are a fight against the government. This one seemed more like a fight for survival, a fight for love, a fight for those who are loved. It was beautiful and I simply loved the way Rossi could make me care so much! Were you able to make it to the signing on Saturday at Changing Hands with Rossi and Tahereh Mafi??

  5. Jenny - Hype does have a tendency to ruin books, doesn't it? I really liked this one, though. It's not flawless by any means, but I think Rossi did a lot of things right. I'm definitely excited for the next book in the series.

    Rita - LMK what you think of it.

    KGL - Really? Bummer.

    Jen - Totally agree, especially with the part about Rossi making the reader care. That was my favorite part - that I felt so invested in the characters.

    No, unfortunately, I wasn't able to go on Saturday. I really wanted to, but it was my daughter's birthday, so we spent the day doing birthday stuff. Did you go? I bet it would have been lots of fun :(


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