Title: Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1)
Author: Veronica Rossi
Narrator: Bernadette Dunne Flagler
Publication Date: December 1, 2011
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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.
Alright, I promised Tracy that I would never write a review on here that was just nonstop ranting about a book. So I will write a few paragraphs of well-thought out, critical review, but I will definitely be leaving myself a little bit of time for ranting at the end.
Under the Never Sky takes place in what I am assuming is our future, during a time when dangerous Aether storms make it dangerous to live outdoors. Most humans have retreated into "pods," where they waste their days using a device called Smarteyes to enter the Realms (aka: The Matrix). Aria is a pod-dweller who has lost contact with her mother. In a desperate attempt to communicate with her again, Aria enlists the help of Soren (a complete and total JERK) and, when things go very, very wrong, she finds herself kicked out of the pods and forced to live outside. Some humans still survive in the wilderness, however, and Aria soon meets Perry, the boy who could be her salvation...or her destruction.
First of all, I really don't recommend the audiobook version of Under the Never Sky. The narrator was completely awful. Every chapter told from Perry's point of view was told in a weird husky voice that was incredibly distracting. But honestly, I don't really recommend this book as a whole, either. I had a lot of issues with this book, primarily with the world building, pacing, and character development.
Let's dig into the world building first. Pod life could have been so interesting to learn about, but few details were given and the ones that were didn't make a ton of sense. There were so many really cool technological developments, but nothing was explained. I would have also really appreciated a little bit of history about when the Aether storms started and the humans retreated into pod life. Even just a page or two of explanation here or there would have made such a difference and let me get more immersed in the story. Something that was also incredibly confusing was the fact that some Outsiders are Seers. However, Seers in this story are people with a heightened sense of sight. Seer is not used in the traditional sense, like it is in every other piece of literature you've ever read. The main problem is that this wasn't explained until the 50% mark! I read half the book thinking characters were doing something different! If you are going to use a word and give it a meaning other than its traditional one, you NEED to explain that before the halfway point of the book!
I found the pacing to be incredibly off in Under the Never Sky as well. The story started out with an action-packed scene and then NOTHING HAPPENED FOR HUNDREDS OF PAGES. There was a little bit of excitement around the 70% mark and then, once again, nothing happened. I felt like I spent hours of my life just watching Perry and Aria wander around the wilderness. Pages and pages and pages of no action or plot development to speak of. I was so bored during most of this book.
The characters also left a lot to be desired. Aria was so mind-numbingly STUPID. Her idiocy was so distracting that I honestly can't even think of any other characteristics of her character. All I know is that she smells like violets. Which leads us to Perry and his super-sniffer. Perry has superhuman smell, to the point where he can smell a person's emotions. These powers are once again not really explained and don't make much sense. But if I had to hear Perry talking about how Aria smelled like violets ONE MORE TIME, I was going to have to throw my phone out the window. I get it, smell is very important to him. But FIND A DIFFERENT WAY TO DESCRIBE HER. Using the same descriptors on every other page is sloppy and uncreative writing.
Ok, can I rant now? Can I, can I, can I?????? (I will not be offended if you choose to skip over the rant and head straight to my conclusion. Although, you could be in for a good laugh...)
Let's do this...
The first issue I encountered with Under the Never Sky is the sheer stupidity of Aria and all pod dwellers. The book opens with a bunch of teenagers deciding to disable their Smarteyes for the night. They are all so mystified by everything they are seeing in real life for the first time. They've seen fruit in the realms, but now they are seeing it growing for real in their greenhouses. The thing that bothers me about this is the the Smarteyes only cover their left eye. So why have none of these people ever just USED THEIR RIGHT EYE TO LOOK AROUND???? And before you try to convince me that the smart eyes tap into their brains, therefore providing them with a fully-immersive 4D experience...there is a scene where someone tries on a Smarteye and can see the Realms and the room they are sitting in. So I don't want to hear it.
Back to Perry the super-sniffer. There is a scene where Aria gets her first period ever (at 17) and Perry has to explain what it is to her. And the reason he realizes that she has her period is because she starts smelling like violets. SERIOUSLY???? I want to live in a future where periods smell like violets because that could not be farther from the truth in our world. Aria is shocked and disgusted that she has her period because in pod life all babies are created in a lab, therefore eliminating the need for menstruation. BUT HOW? You can't just DECIDE you don't need periods anymore and get rid of them. This is just another aspect of pod life that is never explained and infuriates me.
Finally, let us discuss the 42,678,392 instances of cliches and tropes used in this book. I don't want to give a lot away, but trust me, they're there. OF COURSE Perry just happens to be the only Outsider who has his special type of superpower. OF COURSE the people with Perry's superpower just happen to be more handsome than everyone else.
There are a ton of more trope-y things that happen in this book, but I really don't want to spoil anything.
Alright, I need to stop now. I think I've said my peace and it's time for me to stop ranting. I know a lot of people really adore this series, and I do apologize if it is one of your favorites. I give you permission to tear one of my favorites to shreds. As you can see, I had a lot of issues with this book, and I can say with absolute certainty that I will not be spending my time continuing on with the series.
Man, that was a lot of fun to write...