One of my very favorite things is reading books by debut authors. I love to see that first glimpse into a new imagination and a new voice. And then, especially because so many YA debuts are the first in a series, I love to see that author’s talent grow. When it comes to Veronica Rossi, I’m not sure how much higher she had to climb. I read Under the Never Sky by random draw, closing my eyes and just picking from a stack. When I first pulled it out, I was a little disappointed. But then I read the first chapter and I could not put it down. Under the Never Sky had almost all of the things I love in a book: a mysterious plot, a mysterious boy, a lack of a love triangle, a girl who is struggling to figure out her place in the world, and an awesome world in which to do that. Also? The title is so pretty.
Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse. 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. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. 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. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
I loved the world-building in this book. It made for interesting, diverse characters. It made for awesome descriptions and visuals. And, most importantly, it played perfectly into the plot. I loved the contrast between the pod people (as I called them in my head) and the people of the wild. And the wasteland with its storms? Brilliantly written and exciting to read about. It was a fertile ground for these characters to grow in.
I thought the plot was well paced. There was action and emotion and humor and it all came at just the right time.I felt like everything that happened happened for a reason, and that each event and each page of the book was building somewhere. I liked the mystery in it, and I liked the fact that two people from two different worlds had two mysteries to solve. I’m not normally a fan of dueling points of view, but there were distinct voices for both Perry and Aria. I thought one of the best things about this book was watching two people from opposite ends of the spectrum find their way to the middle. This was so important, because though we get glimpses of other characters, the vast majority of this book is Perry and Aria.
I really liked Aria’s journey. She was brave from the get go, and smart. I liked that both of these things lead her to be a little manipulative, as is seen from the very first chapter, in the pursuit of what she wanted. I thought that she felt real. She was unlikable at times, but in a good way. In a way that meant she had somewhere to go as a character. Aria had the most character growth of any character I’ve read in a while. And what was fascinating was that Aria was all alone. She loses her only real friend right off the bat and we know her mother has been missing from page 1. It made Aria’s journey more complicated, because she’s been thrust into the ether with no backup. It made me admire her refusal to give up that much more. I loved where she ended up, and I really loved watching her get there.
Perry was awesome. If I were stuck in a zombie apocalypse (and no, no zombies here), I’d totally want a guy like Perry. He could hunt and he could fight and he was brave. But, for all his prickliness (and there certainly was prickliness), there was a lot of depth to him. We knew he had sympathy and feeling from the beginning, and we saw more and more of that come out as the book went on. His relationship with his family was one of the most interesting parts of the book, as was his relationship with his friends. It showed us a side of Perry that he wouldn’t even admit in his own mind.
But the real strength of this book was Perry and Aria together. They genuinely disliked each other in the beginning, but they got to know each other. Not likes and dislikes so much as who the other was. They were attracted to each other, but that was only a part of it. They made each other better, more whole. I felt like, at the end, here are two characters who together could do anything. They started out on completely unequal footing, but by the end they were partners. It was a great evolution.
I think Under the Never Sky lived up to its title. It was beautifully written, the characters were excellent, and I loved how the romance grew and was shown to us. It was a great first installment, a great debut, and I can’t wait for it’s sequels.