This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5
Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi – With the young adult literature market of today dominated by dystopian fairy tales, the competition has grown stiff to tell the grandest post-apocalyptic yarns. It takes a combination of original concept, exceptional prose, action-packed storytelling and believable romance to stand out from the crowd–and Rossi has managed to do just that with her debut YA novel, Under the Never Sky.
Aria comes from a world of virtual reality, where even fear is a synthesized emotion. When her fellow Pod-dwellers strike a vein of madness, Aria finds herself thrown out of the safety she knows and into The Death Shop, the dangerous, uncontrolled world outside the enclosed city of Reverie. There she meets a volatile Outsider named Perry–a fighter and a hunter, warring with his eldest brother for Blood Lord of the tribe. Together they navigate dangerous Aether storms, confront cannibals, and try to unravel the mystery of two disappearances: Aria’s researcher mother and Perry’s young nephew.
I picked up Under the Never Sky for my monthly Girls’ Night Book Club, so I’ve combined four opinions into one for the purpose of this review. Each of us found different things to love about this novel: the Outsiders’ enhanced “senses,” such as Perry’s ability to smell emotions quite vividly; the “fantasy” sub-genre that emerges as the characters quest across the Death Shop’s landscape; and the frightening realism of the cannibalistic Croven. Rossi paints her dystopian world with poetic detail, and never falls into the trap of letting her world-building distract from the narrative. Her prose is masterful and quick. The story never sags, even in the throes of the second act, where many dystopian fairy tales wind up after the novelty of the concept has worn off.
Romance blossoms slowly in Under the Never Sky, taking a form that is natural, poetic, and wholly believable. The book’s narration is divided equally between Aria and Perry, creating a delightful circumscribing effect when the romantic tension begins to grow. If there was any fault to find in Rossi’s writing style, it would be that Perry’s chapters were the most novel and interesting, likely because Perry himself is novel: male, for starters, and an Outsider, a lifestyle that is both harsh and enviable. Sometimes I found myself rushing through Aria’s narration just so I could get back to Perry.
Only at the end of the novel does Rossi’s storytelling trip and stutter. The climax and resolution feel rushed. There are strange lapses in continuity and logic, and Aria makes some peculiar decisions that left us thinking: shouldn’t she know better by now? Too many events in rapid succession came across as suspiciously convenient.
Despite the hurried conclusion and the obvious opening left behind for a sequel, I still give Rossi’s Under the Never Sky four hearts for emerging as a star voice on the crowded dystopian bookshelf. A debut novel worth getting your hands on.