Tag Archive | 5 stars

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1)

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Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1)
Rating 5 out of 5 stars

Quotes:
(1) “She knew how to put one foot in front of the other even when every step hurt. And she knew there was pain in the journey, but there was also great beauty.”

(2) “And in life, at least in her new life, chances were the best she could hope for. They were like her rocks. Imperfect and surprising and maybe better in the long run than certainties. Chances, she thought, were life.”

For Readers Who:
(1) Enjoy slow-building romances. This is not a love-at-first sight plot.

(2) Like post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction.

(3) Don’t mind third-person alternating narrative. The novel switches between Aria and Perry’s points of view. I really like this, especially since there has been a recent trend in YA fiction to later publish separate novels or novellas from the point of view of the romantic interest. Why not just write the book in which we get to see the romance develop from both sides? It’s like cutting out the middleman in the equation.

Review:
The Under the Never Sky series is, in my opinion, the most imaginative in the last couple of years. My mom and I debated this very topic (I know–I live an enviously adventurous life…), and we both came to the same conclusion: while we also love Divergent, Veronica Rossi’s plot and writing style are probably the better of the two.

Okay, hold up on the public stoning. I am not arguing that one series is better than the other. What I am trying to say is that Under the Never Sky scores serious points for creativity. The novel is set in the future. The basic premise of the plot is that Earth’s environment had become uninhabitable. A select few families were lucky enough to live in compounds that protected them from the outside world. The rest of the population had to fend for themselves.

Fast forward a couple hundred of years. The two groups are still living separately, but both groups have begun to evolve in different ways. Now, this is not a hard core science fiction book. The thing I found so spectacular about Rossi is that she manages to incorporate elements from science fiction without making it generically science fiction. Under the Never Sky is very much a YA romance. It is this unexpected combination of futuristic, sci-fi-esque, “us vs. them,” Romeo and Juliet romance that is really rather genius.

I also enjoyed the narration; Rossi alternates between the third person viewpoints of Aria (who grew up in the sheltered society) and Perry (who grew up on the “outside”). However, I hope that the success of this novel doesn’t start a trend in which every author narrates his or her book this way. The reason the alternating viewpoints work, in this case, is because Aria and Perry have grown up so differently that they see the world, both literally and metaphorically, from completely different views. For instance, Aria has never seen snow and asks Perry what it’s like. When the narrative changes to his point of view, Perry can’t understand how first, you could live and never see snow, and second, how you describe snow to someone. Under the Never Sky is a Romeo and Juliet story, of sorts, but the plot doesn’t follow “Two households both alike in dignity.” Perry and Aria’s worlds are not at all alike.

Verdict:
Under the Never Sky revolves around a clash of two worlds, but Rossi’s use of elements from different genres does anything but clash. The plot is unique, the characters are likable, and the narration enhances the theme of a romance overcoming differences. With the final book in the trilogy coming out in January 2014, pick up Under the Never Sky and delve into Rossi’s universe.

The Morgesons

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5 out of 5 stars

FAVORITE QUOTES:

(1) “Even drawn battles bring their scars.”

(2) “I became a devourer of books which I could not digest, and their influence located in my mind curious and inconsistent relations between facts and ideas.”

FOR READERS WHO:

(1) enjoy first-person narratives

(2) like the poetry of Emily Dickinson

(3) want a more mature coming-of-age story to add to classics like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre

REVIEW: I am aware that this isn’t a young adult novel, although that is the genre to which I have devoted this blog. I also know that many readers of YA fiction have read or end up reading 19th and early 20th century novels with strong female characters like Elizabeth Bennet or Jane Eyre, precursors to the clever, rebellious, and loyal heroines we see in fiction today. Elizabeth Stoddard’s heroine, Cassandra Morgeson, is only remembered by a handful of academics in literature. She is a heroine that deserves to take her place among her sisters. If Stoddard was alive today, she would probably have to pay me a commission for the lengths I am going to pull her name from obscurity.

The novel also has a notable style. If Emily Dickinson would have written a novel, that novel would have been The Morgesons. Okay, that may be a bit of an overstatement. However, Elizabeth Stoddard’s novel should be far less obscure than it is today; the novel’s prose has a grace and a strength of emotion that mirrors that of her contemporary, Dickinson.

Like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, The Morgesons is a 19th century coming-of-age novel. Many readers discover Austen and Bronte’s novels when they are still quite young and they cherish them throughout their lives. Re-reading them brings a kind of nostalgia for a world of youth, romance, and idealism. The Morgesons is a coming-of-age novel for a new stage of life, when things have become more…complicated than you thought things would ever be at 14 (that was the age when I first read Pride and Prejudice).

The novel is a first person narrative written in the voice of Cassandra (Cassy) Morgeson. She lives on a coastal town near Boston with her parents and her sister Veronica (Verry). As she grows, she is sent away to live in different towns, first with her grandfather, a pious tyrant of a man, then with her cousin and his wife, and then with high society in the novel’s fictional counterpart of Salem.

Cassy is smart and rebellious, and she is intelligent enough to be aware of the limitations of social conventions and gender norms. Like the sea near the coast where she grew up, her soul longs to be free from restraint. Cassy as a character is likable. The character of her sister Verry is the hardest to understand and place within the context of the novel. Verry is meant to represent the opposite of Cassy; her personality is like the endless and unchanging pastures while Cassy’s is the ever-volatile sea. I am still thinking about how to process Verry because she is, well, Verry (yep, that’s a pun) strange.

Like Cassy, Stoddard pushed the boundaries of her era by writing a novel not only about a young woman’s intellectual and emotional maturation, but also about her sexual awakening. Keep in mind, the novel was published in 1862, so today’s readers might not immediately pick up on subtle sexual symbolism: appetite and the sea. However, writing about love, not just as marriage but as desire, is a significant milestone in women’s writing.

VERDICT: This is not what I would call an “easy” novel. Does this mean that you shouldn’t read it? No, it means you should read it. Its ambiguity makes you think and these are often the best kinds of novels. As readers, we are often too used to being told exactly what is happening: what the scene looked like, what a character was thinking, what his best friend ate for dinner that night. I sometimes wonder if this is one reason some of us like the world of books so much: the only thing we really have to guess is the ending. The Morgesons will keep you guessing and it will make you think–not only about the characters, but also about yourself–long after you have finished turning the pages.