Birthday celebrations & a book recommendation

Today is my birthday! Another year gone by, and yet, I don’t feel any older. Some delusional part of me still thinks I’m 16. In celebration of aging numerically but not at heart, I’m giving away some goodies over on Pub(lishing) Crawl and talking about the revision process that follows an author receiving their editorial letter — a process I’m almost done with myself! You should take a look.

But first, while I have you here, I need to gush about something. I read a certain book last week, finished it on Saturday, and have NOT STOPPED THINKING ABOUT IT since.

Let’s talk about Veronica Rossi’s UNDER THE NEVER SKY, shall we?

Summary from the inside jacket:

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of survival in the outer wasteland are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent 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 this 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. Opposite in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive.

You know that feeling when you’re reading a novel and you just know it’s something special? When you want to hug the book to your chest and each time you open it your stomach starts lurching around with butterflies? When you stress over the characters’ safety and pine for their success and start to imagine that they are real people because you want to meet them that badly?

Yeah, I had that experience with this book.

I loved this novel. LOVED. The world is terrifying, the stakes are high, and the whole thing is un-putdownable (my favorite type of read). I adored this book the way I adored THE HUNGER GAMES and BLOOD RED ROAD.

Aria and Perry could not be more opposite. She’s lead a sheltered life, surrounded by technology, while Perry has grown up fighting to survive with his tribe in the wild. Their paths cross when Aria is exiled from her home for a crime she didn’t commit and the two strike up an unlikely alliance.

The dual POVs in this novel are executed brilliantly. Even in third person, the voices are distinct and the narration effective. I have a soft spot for Perry, though. He is tough and raw and viciously guarded. His relationship with his nephew, Talon, is endearing and sweet. Perry may be deadly with his arrows, but he has a caring side as well, and one that Aria slowly comes to see over the course of the novel.

The romance that develops between Aria and Perry is a slow, steady thing that builds as the two learn to trust, respect, and appreciate one another. Where at first there is nothing but hate, that slowly melts as the pair is forced to rely on each other. And I believed every moment of it. It was believable when they were at each others’ throats, and later, when the tables are totally reversed, I was swooning and cheering them on. Rossi writes their arc as a couple flawlessly.

But the world! It may have been my favorite part of this novel. Yes there are pods and hover crafts and fancy technology like there are in many sci-fi novels out today, but between the Aether storms and the Outsider tribes, UNDER THE NEVER SKY offers something fresh and unique to the dystopian genre. The storms are both beautiful and terrifying. (I sort of want to witness one. But from afar. With binoculars. And maybe from the safety of a pod.) Perry’s culture was also amazingly well done. From Blood Lords (chiefs of the tribe) to the mutations that have given certain members exceptional skills (sight, hearing, smell), every aspect is captivating and developed.

About 50 pages from the end I worried this would end on a cliff-hanger, but thankfully, it does not. This is a fully satisfying and complete first novel, with new challenges just beginning to appear as the story comes to a close. I am desperately awaiting the sequel. I already miss Perry (MAN, did I love-love-loooove him), and I’m anxious to learn how Aria continues to fit into the world under the never sky. I have a feeling the stakes will only be higher for these two moving forward.

Please, please, PLEASE go read this novel so we can discuss it together? I haven’t wanted to gush about a book so badly since Katniss pulled out those red berries at the end of the HUNGER GAMES. There’s even a chance to win a copy of Rossi’s brilliant debut in my Pub(lishing) Crawl post today! Go enter. Go read. You won’t regret it!!

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