Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
January 24, 2012; Harper Collins / Balzer + Bray
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.
As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...(courtesy of Goodreads)
My impression of Everneath is mixed. Brodi Ashton creates a unique twist on a well known Greek myth. She turns it into a young adult novel without succumbing to the stereotypical young adult plot arcs. However, I had trouble connecting to the characters. In addition, or perhaps because I couldn't connect to the characters, the story dragged.
Loosely based on the story of Hades and Persephone, Nikki shows up in her hometown after disappearing for 6 months. She looks strung out and everyone assumes she got caught up in drugs and ran away. In reality, she spent 100 years down in the Everneath (6 months in human time). Nikki and her emotions served as food for Cole, her immortal. Once the feeding ends, most humans are effectively soulless. They spend eternity mired away in the tunnels, having shriveled away all their desires, hopes, dreams, and nightmares during the feeding. Not Nikki. She had the strength of character to go back to the real world, if only for a short time. Nikki has 6 months to set everything right and then she has to go back to the Everneath. She has dreamed about seeing her old boyfriend Jack. It's kept her alive. And of course, she misses her father and little brother. But it's much harder to reintegrate back into the real world than Nikki expected.
There are a lot of things I like about Nikki. She has a great amount of inner strength, despite being weak enough to succumb to Cole's promises of eternal emotional relief. She is kind to her friends and her family. She is also amazingly patient. The post-Everneath Nikki realizes she screwed up royally and understands that it is going to take time for people to reaccept her. She quietly plods through in the background, always toeing the line.
I guess my main problem with Nikki was that she was a closed book - both to the other characters in the story and to the reader. As the plot goes on, I understand what happened to make her desire an emotional drain, but I didn't feel it. I understand the surface-level Nikki, but despite seeing the world through her eyes, there were layers of her past and her pain that I never broke through.
Brodi can be congratulated for having two hot guys in this story yet not turning the plot into a love triangle. An almost unheard of feat in YA literature. Unfortunately, I think I would have liked the story better if there had been a love triangle. On the Cole v. Jack front, a big part of me wanted Cole to win. Jack is nice, sweet, and understanding, but too Wonderbread for me. He actually has more facets than many cardboard nice guys that I've seen in novels, but I couldn't connect to him.
On the other hand, haunted, funny, sarcastic Cole totally did it for me. Yet he is clearly the villain. You get hints that Cole has real emotions and really cares for Nikki, but most of the time he is out for his own interests. He seems to want Nikki for what she can do for him, rather than because he likes her. But it's not cut and dry. Since I love Cole, I wish he had a few more redeeming qualities. I would like to see a real love triangle - preferably with Cole winning in the end. I'm pretty sure that Jack is the guy that readers are supposed to root for. I wish Brodi had done a better job of making him endearing. I'm having too much trouble resisting Cole's bad-boy charms.
Everneath is split into Now v. Then time points. The story goes back and forth between Nikki's life before going to the Everneath and after. It takes almost the entire book to understand what drew her to the darkness. The mystery made the book weaker. If I had understood Nikki's past sooner, I would have connected better with her. By the time I learned all the details, I was so emotionally disconnected from the characters that I thought Nikki's heartbreak was superficial.
For all my criticism, Everneath is an interesting and enjoyable story. It was quite slow, but to readers who get sucked in more than me, I'm sure the plot will flow much better. Part of me liked the characters. I just couldn't connect well enough to them to really care about them. I loved the mythology and the concept of immortals and emotional feeding. I'd recommend that you give Everneath a try (if for no other reason than the gorgeous cover), because there's a good chance you'll like it more than me.