Since last year I'm becoming increasingly more and more enchanted by dystopian literature. And Under the Never Sky is a magnificent and captivating example for the dystopian genre. The world Veronica Rossi creates in her debut novel is multifaceted, intriguing and beautifully described. It's definitely no hardship to follow her detailed illustration and to re-create the inhospitable, tortured and changed earth in your own mind. I think that's what make this book such an easy read, at least for me. As soon as I started the book, I couldn't let it down for even short breaks until I read the last line.
One of the two main characters is Aria. The 17-year-old girl grew up in an artificial environment, the pod, that protects her perfectly from the destructive surface of what our earth became. Everything is optimised in this world and people have a lot of free time, which they spend in the so-called Realms, a completely digital universe. They have all the knowledge, but at the same time these people are very passive. Though this world seems to be very strange, almost like science fiction, I liked Aria's voice and started to care for her immediately. After all she is still a teenager with teenage-issues such as; missing her mom, hanging out with her friends and doing forbidden things. The latter one results in her being expelled from the safe haven of the pods in the lethal "real" world. Or that's at least what she was thought her whole life about the outside of the pod. But, against her expectation, she doesn't die immediately and most of the book is about her development to become a survivor and knowing more herself than she ever thought possible.
I'm always in support of strong female characters, who don't need a man to do their work, but Aria doesn't have to figure out everything on her own as she stumbles (or maybe it was the other way round) over the outsider Perry (short for Peregrine, which is quite beautiful) on her first night "out". Here the fun really starts. Perry and Aria have absolutely nothing in common except survival and were actually taught the worst thing about each other all their life. And both of them are not reluctant at all to express themselves very clearly. It's hilarious. They bicker, they fight and in the end they work together. As the book is alternatingly written from both their points of views, the reader gets all insides. On the outside Perry is an absolute ass. He is unfriendly, opinionated, arrogant, and perfectly in tone with the wilderness, so that it seems that he doesn't need anybody. By following his voice you realise that he actually cares almost too much about his people, especially his nephew, and the survival of his tribe. Perry is a man/boy of very deep, almost brutally strong emotions, who does what he has to do. Which doesn't necessarily mean that it won't hurt him.
Perry doesn't save Aria out of his genuine charity. Nope, he sees in her a chance to find his nephew, who was taken by Aria's people. And Aria needs the help but also wants to find her mother, who was working in another pod and who she hasn't heard of in weeks. And so the journey of these two quite unwilling companions starts. And it's a story of friendship, tolerance, learning new things, opening your heart and brain to new possibilities and in the end romance. Yes, there is a romance in here and no, there is no love-triangle. And it's also no love on the first sight, obviously, as these two can't stand each other in the beginning. I loved how they first made a truce, which became a shaky friendship, which then developed into trust. And out of this a small sparkle of love evolved. It was written very subtle and described beautifully. Unfortunately their involvement with each other is quite impossible in both their worlds, which gives the whole romance an element of desperation and slight sadness. And though this is actually positive, I'm a sucker for sad romances.
Overall I absolutely loved this book. For me, everything was right. The character development was superb and though the pace wasn't overly rash I was never bored. The book focused mostly on Aria and Perry getting to know each other and their mission. Their is very obviously more going on between and with the different human populations than we get to know in Under the Never Sky, but that's why this is the beginning of a series. The book itself is, except for a few minor story lines, perfectly closed in itself and could almost be a stand-alone. There is also a paranormal element to the whole story, which was very intriguing and well done by the author. I will definitely pick up the sequel, Though the Ever Night, which will be published in 2013.
*** ARC courtesy of Publisher via NetGalley ***