Author: Veronica Rossi
Publication Date: 01/03/2012
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.Note: The above summary is taken from HarperTeen directly as I feel the Goodreads one is too lengthy, and gives too much away.
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.
The people who survive live in pods, Dwellers, spending the majority of their time visiting virtual realms to escape the redundancy of never being able to travel. Aria, having accepted a risk in order to find out information about the whereabouts of her mother, decides to explore abandoned pods with a group of friends. One thing leads to another and her risk turned into an adventure that she could have never been prepared for. Life outside the pod is vivid, visceral and nothing like the realms depicted. Angry with herself, the people who shunned her, and the Outsiders she has to deal with in order to survive, Aria comes to realise there's more than one definition to life.
I really enjoyed this book for a handful of reasons. The biggest one being Veronica Rossi's skill in world-building. This just as easily could have been a book that you've felt you've read before a thousand times with tropes here (post-apocalyptic pod living) and there (insider/outsider). For the first 20 or so pages I was uneasy, wondering where it was going. But there was just the right amount of information in the right spots that enables the reader to make educated guesses about the rest, and just enough not to throw them off or want to put the book down.
Secondly is characterisation. Characters, for me, are the most important bit of a story. If I can't love the characters, or if they can't make me believe in them, then it's difficult for everything else to shine. I wasn't sure about Aria at first - she was sullen and angry and I was having a hard time reconciling her dislike for the outside that's inherent from having lived inside all your life. Then she would make these small movements that really allowed me to feel as if she were exploring nature for the first time. The realms could never depict the variety and striations of mineral rocks, so Aria is enamored with the sheer amount of possibility that the environment produces. She asks about snow and clouds and flowers, all things she's never been able to experience. Truthfully, I hadn't expected her to endear herself to me as much as she had, but nothing about her exploration seemed forced which made the entire story work.
Aria's traveling companion is Perry, an Outsider. There's very little interaction between Dwellers and Outsiders and so there is little trust between the two, each skeptical of each other's intentions and way of living. Perry isn't the broody, lean-y type with arched eyebrows. He's quiet and blunt and completely unsure of the situation. Perry has his goals, which happen to coincide with Aria's for a period, and so they're able to help each other. Time breaks down stereotypes and the interactions between them become more easy and honest. I had a difficult time getting these two out of my head after I finished the book. Their story wasn't effortless, but instead came with push and pull at a natural pace with a result that made me fall in love with their ease and sense of comfort.
One of the things I liked most is that the secondary characters were also really well-developed even for the short amount of time that some of them were seen. Fleshed out and real, they helped to describe Aria and Perry more than the two did themselves and it enabled me to understand the situation from a different light. Under the Never Sky is a post-apocalyptic story that works because of its characters and swift storytelling that helps you get lost in the setting. I didn't realise it was a series until I finished it, but these are people I can't wait to know more about.