My twelfth and final review for the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge is UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi.
The goal of this challenge is “to finally read 12 books from your ‘to be read’ pile within twelve months”. To qualify for the challenge, books must be read and reviewed before the year is over, and all selections must have publishing dates from the year 2013 or older. (Here are the books I’ve read this year.)
I picked up this book during an SCBWI LA Summer Conference a few years ago after hearing Ms. Rossi speak. I loved her talk on high concept. It really helped me understand what that means and how to focus my own ideas down to the important story elements. I had a chance to meet her later and get her to sign my copy for me during the autograph party. She was an absolute sweetheart.
On to the review!
UNDER THE NEVER SKY (Under The Never Sky #1) by Veronica Rossi
Published by: HarperCollins
Release Date: December 1, 2011
Genres: YA, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption.
In alternating chapters told in Aria’s and Perry’s voices, Under the Never Sky subtly and powerfully captures the evolving relationship between these characters and sweeps readers away to a harsh but often beautiful world. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
I loved the alternating POV setup of the chapters. Rossi did an excellent job balancing out these two dynamic characters to the point that I was equally torn between both sides. I also loved how she weaved this unusual world so seamlessly into the story. I especially enjoyed discovering the special abilities of the Outsiders, and how Perry was able to sense temperaments – that added so much interesting tension to many of his intimate scenes with Aria. Ahh! I’d love to share, but don’t want to spoil anything for future readers.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One:
“Come on, Paisley. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Aria meant it as a joke, but her voice sounded too high so she tacked on a laugh. That came out sounding mildly hysterical.
“What could happen in a damaged dome?” Paisley counted on her slender fingers. “Our skin could rot off. We could get locked out. An Aether storm could turn us into human bacon. Then cannibals could eat us for breakfast.”
“It’s just another part of Reverie,” Aria said.
“An off-limits part.”
“Pais, you don’t have to go.”
“Neither do you,” Paisley said, but she was wrong.
For the past five days, Aria had worried constantly about her mother. Wy hadn’t she been in touch? Lumina had never missed one of their daily visits, no matter how engrossed she was in her medical research. If Aria wanted answers, she needed to get into that dome.
“For the hundredth–wait, thousandth–time, Ag 6 is safe,” Soren said without turning from the control board. “You think I want to die tonight?”
He had a point. Soren loved himself too much to risk his own life. Aria’s gaze rested on his muscled back. Soren was the son of Reverie’s Director of Security. He had the kind of flesh that only came with privilege. He even had a tan, a ridiculous upgrade considering none of them had ever seen the sun. He was also a genius at cracking codes.
Bane and Echo watched at his side. The brothers followed Soren everywhere. He usually had hundreds of followers, but that was in the Realms. Tonight just five of them shared the cramped airlock chamber. Just five of them breaking the law.
Soren straightened, flashing a cocky smile. “I’m going to have a talk to my father about his security protocols.”
“You did it?” Aria asked.
Soren shrugged. “Was there ever a doubt? Now for the best part. Time to turn off.”
“Wait,” Paisley said. “I thought you were just going to jam our Smarteyes.”
“I’ve been jamming them but that won’t give us enough time. We need to turn off.”
Aria brushed a finger over her Smarteye. She had always worn the clear device over her left eye and it was always on. The Eye took them to the Realms, the virtual spaces where they spent most of their time…
Soren shifted his thick shoulders like a boxer stepping into a ring. “Here we go, Glitches. Hold on to your pants. We’re shutting off in three, two–“
Aria startled at a shrill ringing that came from deep within her ears. A red wall crashed over her field of vision. Hot needles of pain stabbed into her left eye and then spread over her scalp. They gathered at the base of her skull and then shot down her spine, exploding through her limbs. She heard one of the boys swear stiffly with relief. The red wall vanished as quickly as it had come.
She blinked a few times, disoriented. The icons for her favorite Realms had disappeared. The messages in the queue and the news crawl in the lower part of her Smartscreen were gone as well, leaving only the airlock door, which appeared dull, filtered through a soft film. She looked down at her gray boots. Middle Gray. A shade that covered nearly every surface in Reverie. How could gray seem less vibrant?
A sense of loneliness crept over her despite being in the crowded little chamber. She couldn’t believe people lived this way once, with nothing but the real. Savages on the outside still lived this way.
“It worked,” Soren said. “We’re off! We’re strictly meat!”
Bane hopped up and down. “We’re like the Savages!”
“We’re Savages!” Echo yelled. “We’re Outsiders!”
Soren spun the manual release bar on the door. The chamber depressurized with a quick hiss and a rush of cool air. Aria looked down, stunned to see Paisley’s hand clasped to hers. She had only a second to absorb the fact that she hadn’t touched anyone in months, since her mother left, before Soren slid the door open.
What a great beginning! And this is even before you meet Perry. This makes me want to start the book all over again.
I loved, loved, loved this book! I think this has been my favorite dystopian story since THE HUNGER GAMES. Rossi has really created a rich, fantastical world filled with fascinating and complex characters. I enjoyed getting to know them and following their story through to the end.
(I hardly need to say that I picked up the second book in this series immediately after finishing the final chapter of the first book, do I?)
Great story. Great characters.
Read this book!
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