Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Genre: Teen/YA, Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5
Aria has lived in a pod, a completely enclosed community, all her life. Outside the pod is the wasteland, a place whose air is toxic and that is plagued by violent storms called the Aether. But when Aria is banished from her home, she begins to realize that Outside may be different than what she’s been taught. She meets Perry, an Outsider who needs her help, and in exchange for what she can provide, he will keep her alive. Aria must work with Perry in order to survive the harshness of the outside world and discover the secrets behind her own.
Under the Never Sky is another YA dystopian novel that seems to have a familiar premise – there is an “inside” technology-filled world and an “outside”. The “inside” has been lying to its people about what lies on the “outside”. However, this novel has an interesting twist – while the air they breathe outside won’t necessarily kill them, it’s likely either a storm or a person from the outside will. In this case, though the people inside the pods are being lied to, it’s clear that they would not be able to survive the harshness present outside their comfortable existences.
Outside the pods, society has devolved into a tribal culture. Each tribe functions in a different way. The people in a tribe follow a chief, who can be challenged to a death match for leadership. It is primitive by our standards, but it works in this “survival of the fittest” society. Perry is the brother of a chief and disagrees strongly with his brother’s policies and leadership decisions. However, he cannot bring himself to challenge his brother, not when it means killing his own blood and depriving his beloved nephew of a father. Perry is tough-as-nails, but it’s through his relationship with his nephew that readers really gain insight into him. He’s not as hard as he appears at first glance.
Aria is an interesting character. She’s certainly naïve and helpless when the book begins, but she is certainly determined. She knows she can’t take care of herself, that she must rely on Perry, and as much as she hates that feeling, she doesn’t fight it. I appreciated that she was mature about the situation, and that Rossi shied away from the angst with Perry and Aria. Under the Never Sky is also told in alternating perspectives, between Aria and Perry, and this technique worked well for me. Rossi switches from chapter to chapter, and as a result, readers are treated to both points of view.
Under the Never Sky also moves at a good pace and has an action-packed beginning that will draw you in immediately. Once the action dies down, it takes some time for the real story to develop, but it never moved too slowly or lost my interest. It was an interesting dystopian read that brought something new to the table, which I appreciated. My one complaint is the world-building in the novel – while Rossi does create a rich, detailed place for readers to experience in the present, there isn’t much exploration into the past. Presumably this will come in future novels, but I always love to know how the world we live in now comes to be the one we see in the book. How did society devolve? How did the Aether come to be? Still, this is definitely an exciting YA novel that is worth reading, as adult readers will appreciate the maturity of the characters and the richness of the setting.