Rossi, Veronica. Under the Never Sky. 400 p. HarperCollins. 2012. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780062072030.
It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did, I was seriously hooked!
A unique blend of dystopian sci-fi, fantasy, and adventure, Under the Never Sky tells the story of Aria, a girl from a rigid pod-based society whose residents use virtual reality to escape the monotony of their closed-in life. When she's banished to the outside world after an incident, she is rescued by the rugged Outsider, Perry. Though the two can't stand each other, they have to learn to work together to achieve a common goal.
This book strikes me as a great title to introduce science fiction to a non-sci-fi reader. Despite the dystopian setting, most of the action takes place in the more primitive outside world. With battles against warring tribes, fierce wolves, and unpredictable bursts of deadly weather, the bulk of the narrative is a riveting survival story as Aria and Perry undertake their journey through one dangerous situation after another.
Worldbuilding is somewhat vague, but I didn't mind the lack of specifics one bit. I didn't feel like I needed to know exactly what had happened to this world to make it such a harsh place-- I could glean enough from context.
Rossi's concept of a dualistic society is inventive, with those living in the pods being completely dependent on their technology, and those left on the outside having developed supernatural powers to help them survive the elements. The contrasts between these two factions of society set up a perfectly compelling conflict between the two main characters as they learn to overcome their differences.
Indeed, the romance between Aria and Perry is well-crafted and quite swoon-worthy-- definitely one of the highlights of the narrative for me. These characters harbor true disdain for each other initially, and the gradual development of their relationship is believable, with genuine chemistry. I couldn't get enough of these two!
First in a trilogy, this fast-paced story is sure to please those who read across a variety of genres.
Under the Never Sky hits bookstore shelves today. ARC for review provided by HarperCollins via NetGalley.