UNDER THE NEVER SKY (#1)
Author : Veronica Rossi
Publisher : HarperCollins
Pages : Hardcover, 374 pgs
Release Date : January 3, 2012
READioactivity on a scale of 5 : FOUR
They called the world beyond the walls of the Pod "the Death Shop." A million ways to die out there. Aria never thought she'd get so close.Under the Never Sky is a tale more about the million ways to live when the going gets tough. And I never thought my heart would be hijacked by this debut of 2012.
It was. And how.
About the title : Poetic. It's got a musical lilt to it. An otherworldly magical charm. And it perfectly encompasses the theme of the book.
About the cover : I haven't been a cover whore much. When I began reading, it was just me in a library surrounded by books. I cut my teeth on the likes of Robin Cook and Robert Ludlum. I have never judged a book by the cover - no one told me that was how it went. So, I'm generally a bit indifferent to covers unless they are a part of the storyline or significant in a solid way - then it thrills me.
The story : Veronica Rossi is so very sly. She has woven a story that is intelligent and creative in equal parts! It's got believable science behind the dystopia and beautiful prose describing it in the same breath. She knew it would make readers get the literary O. She was so right, that sly sly woman!
They say UTNS is one of the most visual novels of 2012. They aren't the only ones who think that, considering this book has been optioned for movie rights. (Whoooop!)
If I were to try to define Under the Never Sky, then I'd say this book is ALL about meaning. The title, the events in the story line, even the names of the characters!!
ARIA : (n) A long, accompanied song for a solo voice, typically one in an opera or oratorio.
Aria was consciously named by her mother for this very reason. It is a beautiful name and very very fitting. You will understand as you read.
PEREGRINE : (n) A powerful falcon (Falco peregrinus) found on most continents, breeding chiefly on mountains and coastal cliffs and much used for falconry.
(a) Coming from another country; foreign or outlandish
Perry's name is even more meaningful as you read the book. He is an outsider to the world Aria has lived all here life in. The falcon is fitting in more than one ways and it might be a bit spoilery if I let on, so my lips are zipped.
UTNS is set on an Earth gone bad. The weather has turned on us. Because of a solar flare, now, above the clouds there are torrents of blue light snaking into coils. Funneling down to earth like concentrated reverse-lightning : scorching anything that comes into it's way. (How cool is that?) This is so believable given the present precarious condition of Earth's stratosphere. Because of this, there was a rush to build Pods : safe dome like structures where human beings could hide from the wrath of a foreign sky. But in case of a hurricane, everyone does not get to be in a bunker, right? Those who bury in, are the moles. Those who don't are the outsiders, the savages. (The pretty names given to them by the other half)
Aria and Perry belong to other worlds. While Aria has lived in a Pod that is futuristically modern and safe in a very ironic way; Perry has lived on the rutheless, dangerous outside like a primitive man, fighting to survive from day to day. Hats off to Rossi for adding both the Past and Present in such a mesmerizing mix.
Cast out, Aria meets Perry and does not fall for him. The difference is too ingrained into them, their prejudices coloring their opinions. The world they lived in controls their opinions as is natural, right? You don't get a chance to use your own head - you are taught who to like and who to shun. Like two warring nations, there is no love lost between Aria & Perry. But as time goes by.. there is love found. And how.
The characters are so real, so alive and so imperfect. They are humans after all. They make bad mistakes and then make up for it. Aria and Perry are both searching for people close to them, people they love, people who have been taken away from them. Bonded by a common mission, they take on the wasteland together.. coming closer in the most gradual and natural way possible.
If there was no fear, how could there be comfort? Or courage?
The romance : This book has the MOST subtle romance I've ever come across and that's why I love it so much. I do not like in-your-face-love. It doesn't feel real to me and maybe grand gestures make me swoon (who am I kidding, I'm a total girl in that sense) but what makes my heart feel all warm & cuddly is the gradual love that happens when you aren't aware of it. I believe that is also the one that lasts the longest.
But UTNS is not just about the love between Perry & Aria - which btw, is not put into loud sparkly words. This story is also about the love you have for your family and for your friends - and that this love is no less stronger than the one you have for that special someone. It is equally meaningful.
The writing : Is gorgeous. the story is masterfully crafted and I refuse to believe that it is a debut novel, say what you may. Apparently, Rossi had been winning prestigious awards in writing before she wrote this book. Shows. The writing has depth, fluency and beautiful imagery. It is very near perfect. Maybe not the hits-you-in-the-heart gorgeousness of a Maggie Stiefvater, Rachel Hartman or Laini Taylor - but it's right up there with the best. The humor comes in unexpected bursts and elicits a laugh from the bottom of the stomach.
"Fine," she said, and frowned. Monosyllabicism. An outsider disease, and she'd been infected.Characters & their growth : Perry is sensitive - though that wouldn't be your first observation. Blond dreadlocks, tattered clothes and a wild countenance - he is a savage. But deep down there is a broken need to protect and save people he loves and then somehow, himself. Perry is the kind of guy you can depend on, someone who would be your Rock of Gibraltar. That he is good-looking, doesn't hurt so much. Also, it is the broken parts of a person and how they handle it that truly defines them. Perry is no different.
Perry wiped his blade on the man's shirt and stood, his lungs working for breath. Killing a man should be more difficult than killing game. It wasn't. He looked at the knife in his trembling hand. Only the aftermath was different.
Aria is not the stereotypical YA heroine. She is not snarky and wild. She backs down and backs off when her space is invaded. She does not jump at the chance to fight or let her mouth do the talking without consulting her brain. She is not drop dead gorgeous to make Perry instantly fall in
But what I immensely enjoyed reading was how silently strong Aria was. She didn't mouth off all the time but when she did, she hit the bull's eye. She was funny in parts - just like people in real life. She was sweet and you grew to love her, the more time you spent with her. Just like Perry. She grows to be strong and fierce. It was like her determination has laid dormant all the time in the shelter of the Pod and when faced with challenges, it reared it's head and roared.
Talking about Roar. He is the comic relief. The cocky, handsome boy who is sure of himself and his place in the world. Roar is ticklishly funny and easy going. He is the perfect best friend. But it is his equation with Perry and his love for Perry's sis that prevents him from being your normal straight out of best-buddy mould character. He is the guy you instantly fall for.
Conclusion : I admire Veronica Rossi tremendously. I like her series much more than other Dystopians like the Divergent series, which is surprising given how much I related with Divergent. The only thing that makes me give it a four instead of five is because I was not kicked in the heart (in a good way) by this book. I did not love it. It did not make me ache. But that said, I strongly recommend it. Given how much awesome the sequel is, this is a series that is definitely going to go down as one of the best in YA lit. Read it.