Plot: Aria has grown up on tales of the Death Shop beyond the walls of her pod but her desperation to find her missing mother thrusts her out into that deadly wilderness. Outside she will learn a different way to live and discover what the rulers of the pods have been hiding from its people.
Under the Never Sky isn’t a great novel, it has flaws that made it a struggle for me to finish, but it is a good one and it will appeal to fans of novels like Divergent.
I found the premise of the novel very interesting. Rossi opposes two worlds: the Dwellers of the Pods who work, play and live in virtual Realms and the Outsiders who struggle to survive in the harsh environment caused by the aether storms. This isn’t entirely new in distopian fiction but Rossi does explore some interesting possibilities. She doesn’t paint her Realms as something inherently bad as other writers might, but she does look at what it might mean for the pod inhabitants and how it might change them. The Outsiders too have been changed by their environment: many have enhanced senses that border on the supernatural and this too has interesting consequences. The scires, with their amazing sense of smell, made me think of a friend of mine; she knows who she is. 🙂
But. This interesting plot and it’s many dangerous action scenes are marred by over-explanation and telling. Very often we aren’t present during the most exciting scenes; they are explained to us after the fact. And the dangerous or dramatic scenes we do witness are bogged down by detailed explanations of exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling even when this is perfectly clear from their actions. Worse, Rossi feels the need to explain the narrative significance of important events and decisions. I felt like I was being talked down to sometimes.
I also think the novel would have been better without the romance. It felt tacked on to me and wasn’t necessary to further the plot. Aria and Perry fall in love because they are the main characters of a YA series, thrown together suddenly. Their romance didn’t make me feel anything even though separately, two two characters are rather interesting.
But as I said the plot and the world have promise and there are hints at some dark political manipulation so I will probably check out the second novel, Through the Ever Night, eventually though it is not at the top of my pile.