First published in Great Britain: 7th February 2012
Worlds kept them apart. Destiny brought them together.
Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.
Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive...
Surprisingly, I ended up really enjoying this. The surprise was because the first 100 pages are a bit lacking - not bad, but it takes that long for the story to really click.
Under the Never Sky is told in a third person restricted narrative style, each chapter alternating between Aria and Perry's PoVs. When we first meet Aria, it's difficult to feel a connection with her for a couple of reasons. One is that a lot of major events - her mother going missing, her friend dying, leaving her home - either happen before the start of the book or in the first few pages. We don't really get a feel for who Aria is normally, and therefore, probably don't care as much as we should, that 'normal' has been taken away from her: Every thing, every person in her life, we only hear about second-hand. Another reason is that Aria, at the start of the book, is kind of annoying. She's been very sheltered in Reverie and told a lot of half-truths and exaggerations about life outside, so she reacts stupidly and hysterically to the real world. She toughens up and becomes a pretty cool character, but she's difficult to like at first.
Perry's early chapters are much better and I'm convinced it's because we actually get to see his life in his tribe. We see him interact with his brother, his nephew, his friends, so the relationships and dynamics are much more interesting for the reader. The story starts to take off, however, when Perry and Aria finally meet and, united by a common goal, begin to travel together.
The strength of Under the Never Sky, for me, is the relationship between the two main characters. Perry and Aria have it all: Hepburn/Tracy-style banter (or Ron/Hermoine-style if you don't get that reference), hot chemistry (the fact that Perry is ripped and shirtless helps this along significantly) and most importantly, true friendship that's built up gradually over the pages. I totally believed in them as a couple and by the end was a soppy fool over their love: "They make each other better people! It's just so beautiful!"
Don't let this make you think Under the Never Sky is all romance. It's not; the romance works so well primarily because it's not allowed to overtake all the other character and story development. The novel is very action-packed; every step Aria and Perry take leads them into higher stakes and greater danger and there are some very well done fighting and battle scenes. The end reveal is a triumph, too, managing to both make perfect sense and be truly shocking.
I think most readers who like sci-fi/dystopia/apocalyptic stories will end up liking Under the Never Sky. For its genre, it pretty much does everything right: Well plotted, lots of action, with strong characters to pull it off. Get through the imperfect beginning and you'll be rewarded with a solidly entertaining read.
Rating: 4 stars