Honest and lively YA book reviews
I have two major problems with this book: the world building, and Aria's mother, Lumina.
The world building? No. Lame. Everything that could have been interesting was fluffed over and everything boring as fuck was foisted on us for around 75% of the story, a very large part of this being made up of a bunch of people walking through the woods.
Aria is banished from her home Reverie, forced to leave the safety of the pods to the Outside - a futuristic vision of the world scorched and burned, reduced to ashes by devastating Aether storms (some sort of electrical storm? With a tornado element? Was it raining fire? I don't know. Does anyone?) Anxious to find her way home and discover the whereabouts of her long lost mother, Aria meets Perry, an Outsider, who is desperately seeking his nephew kidnapped by scientific researchers of the pods. They form an uneasy alliance when they realise they need each other to reach their goals. And because this is YA, naturally they fall for each other.
I wished I'd been informed before I began reading Under The Never Sky that a huge portion of the book is dedicated to describing Perry and Aria's wilderness survival adventure. I live downtown. I like being surrounded by concrete and solid buildings and people. I'm also a vegetarian so I have absolutely no desire to read about trekking through woodland, slicing creatures throats open (Aria stabs a goddam badger for fucks sake!! Like honestly? No. This kind of thing? Not for me) and building fires and how to tell poisonous berries apart from non-poisonous berries? Stop, Veronica Rossi. Just stop.
This not only came across as so boring I wanted to eat my face, but also kinda smelled like some really lazy world building. Instead of having us explore the inside of the pods, which would have been far more interesting, giving us a glimpse of Rossi's ideas for futuristic technology and how these pods would manage to maintain self sufficiency, we were treated to a cross country hike. We already have woods in this life. We have trees, we have goddam lakes and grass and shit - give us something new to read about!! I love anything set in the future because there really is the chance for the author to let their imagination go wild. I love hearing about people's different ideas of what could exist and their interpretation of what society may become. This is what I was expecting from Under The Never Sky - not historical fiction, which is what it wound up feeling like with all the bows and arrows, wolf skin clothing, stone cottages and whatnot. It was like reading about goddam medieval times with their fucking deer roasting over a damn spit. There's nothing fresh or surprising about the world Rossi has created. It's just Generic Ye Olde Village, populated with a few people who can smell things really well.
Nothing in the world was expanded on or explained properly. How did the population come to be split into two different camps in the first place? Was it like the Dome in Jullianna Baggott's epic post-apocalyptic world of Pure, whereby only the elite, the rich and the powerful were allowed access to shelter when the earth crumbled? Was it the Outsiders choice to remain living in a barren wasteland? And what's with their genetic mutation that supposedly came about as a result of the Aether (again, can anyone enlighten me as to what this Aether actually Is?) How in the world could a fire/lightening/wind storm-thing cause this kind of cell mutation?!! There was a lot of information that was handed to us and then we were just expected to like it or lump it.
Me: But how to the pods function? How do they generate power?
Rossi: They just do.
Me: But where is everyone physically when they're exploring the realms?
Rossi: A place.
Me: Is there currency here? How does the social structure work?
Rossi: Maybe. And it just does.
Me: But do the kids go to school and stuff? Do the adults work? What are their plans for the future? Will they try and reclaim the earth? Aren't there people inside the pods rebelling against having to live their whole lives in a fantasy world? And what about the Outsiders? How did they survive? How are they able to live outside the pods when Dwellers would soon die?
Rossi: Shut up and read the damn book.
There's a total lack of detail, which also comes across in the writing style which isn't very stylish and feels very juvenile at times. There's a few nice quotes in there but nothing that stands out. The kindest thing I could say about it is that it's bland with neutral tones.
"But hang on a minute!! What's your problem with Lumina?" I hear you cry. She's Aria's mother, why am I being so heard hearted about her? Because she talks bullshit. That's why. DLS (degenerative limbic syndrome) No. That cannot be what Lumina has spent years researching because that is a crock of shit. It's not a thing. The Limbic System is a part of the brain responsible for controlling many different functions including thirst and hunger, responses to pain and pleasure, anger and aggression, along with a whole other load of stuff like forming memories and controlling sex drive. Basically it's a very vital piece and it would never simply shut down because of virtual reality. Like, how?! In genuine experimentation, damage to the limbic system has shown a lack of responsiveness to certain stimuli, not some mental, out of control psychotic and murderous rampage as Lumina suggests. So she's lying, or she's just talking shit. Who knows?
She's not only a liar, she's also not gonna win any awards at the annual Mother of The Year Competition either. She forces her daughter to sing against her will, she abandons Aria, taking off to follow her own selfish interests in Bliss (at an unspecified location) leaving her with no adult role model to take her place, the one and only parting message she leaves for her darling daughter is a cold, unfeeling half-hearted goodbye in which Lumina drops a massive bombshell as to the identity of Aria's father (despite the fact that we were assured that people in this futuristic world no longer require two parents to be created) She hadn't really earned my favour, so when the big shock rolled around at the end, I didn't really give a fuck to be honest. I felt nothing.
Perry on the other hand actually has quite a lot going for him. In many ways he's just your average YA romantic interest, but he's kind hearted and brave and rather ordinary looking (save for supposedly being a giant) and I found myself warming to him. His dialog is fine. I mean, it's not sparkling, but neither is it try-hard-witty. There's nothing that sets my teeth on edge quite like try-hard-witty. He also didn't treat Aria like shit (err, mostly) He was cold with her, he was a little brusque but he didn't abuse her, or muck her about or toy with her. I liked it. Sadly, this was short lived as insta-love popped it's head out from the rock it had been hiding beneath. One minute we're great!! There's a nice breeze, everyone is getting along fine in a friendly kinda way. We're swapping manly stories round the camp fire and then Poof!! We're all in love. There was zero relationship development between Aria and Perry. Zero. One moment they're wary of each other with a resentful undertone, the next they're hooking up in a treehouse. There was a sudden switch in their attitudes towards one another. Where a normal person may become friendlier with another as they get to know each other, and let their guard drop gradually as understanding grows, Aria and Perry just got in each other's pants the moment they moved on to exchanging smiles. And then they called it love. What bugged me the most, to the very core of my being, about the insta-love was the lie Perry told Aria:
""Perry, if we .... Couldn't I get ....?" (Aria, asking Perry if they have sex, could she get pregnant)
"No," he said. "Not now. Your scent would be different."
"It would? How?"
Questions. Of course with her. Even now.
Bull-fucking-shit Perry!! What a goddam jerk. Sure, there are certain times in a girl's cycle where pregnancy is more likely, but in reality it is possible to become pregnant at any time you have unprotected sex. Like what the fuck? Perry and I were alright before. We had an understanding. But this is not cool man, seriously not cool. This really boils my blood. This goes hand in hand with all those piece-of-shit myths like you can't get pregnant the first time you have sex, and mustard makes a good contraceptive. C'mon Veronica Rossi!! How about educating our young adults. Don't make your hero behave like a jerk. Don't make your heroine follow along behind him, eating up everything that sprouts from his mouth, never questioning his fucking crackpot theories. But hang on a minute!! Girls shouldn't ask questions, right?! Urgh.
Aria herself wasn't a bad stick. She was just very meh. And the character development was somewhat bizarre. One minute she's afraid to breathe the air around her, the next she's a black-clothed, knife wielding, ninja. Riiiiight. Her naivety was irritating but fitting. After all, she'd lived her whole life in the shelter of Reverie before being tossed to the wolves. What was not fitting is how pathetic she was. If you're looking to read about a quick-thinking, gutsy, smart and brave heroine, don't read Under The Never Sky. Aria is none of these things. She's a dreamer, a follower and a bit of a door mat. She's alright as long as she has her human shield, Perry, in front of her. But try to prop her up on her own and she's just wafting around in the breeze, before toppling over, not even blinking as the others trample all over her.
This really isn't a terrible book. It's got some major flaws, but it's got some decent, if rather poorly thought through ideas, there's no love triangle (although I feel one brewing) and some of the family dynamics surrounding Perry are vaguely interesting. I just wasn't really enthralled. When I start staring off into the middle distance whilst reading, I know something is amiss. I'm not sure if I have the energy to continue reading this series. Perhaps if it was less bland, and there was less hiking involved I may bash on.
We're only one week in, but I hope everyone's 2014 is proving to be exciting, magical and full of wonder so far!! Love to you all!!