Book Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

9413044Title: Everneath
Author: Brodi Ashton
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 24th 2012
Rating: 4 stars
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Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

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..

Everneath is the debut novel by author Brodi Ashton, and what a debut it is. In this book you will find originality, intriguing characters with complex and sometimes addictive personalities, a love story so tragic it makes Romeo and Julia look like a hilarious comedy and a story and mythology so compelling that they pull you in from the very start. Brodi Ashton did some impressive worldbuilding before starting this book, and although original in its concept, it relies heavily on the myths of Hades and Persephone and Orpheus and Euridyce. But the author mixes these elements of Greek Mythology with new and refreshing ideas and the outcome is an entirily new world next to our own called the Everneath, where the immortals called Everlivings have to go once every hundred years to feed. And guess what they feed on? Well, humans. That’s to say, human emotions at least. Now if that concept isn’t thrilling enough to pick up this book, then I don’t know what is. Although impressive, the worldbuilding isn’t too complicated, and you don’t have to study numerous terms to discover what everything means. It’s all pretty straightforward, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.

The story starts of with the heroine of this book, Nikki Beckett, waking up from a century-long sleep in the Everneath, still partially attached to Cole, one of the Everlivings. Miraculously enough, Nikki hasn’t age in this entire time, which equals six months on earth. Normally the Forfeits age significantly, turning to old hags by the time they return from the Everneath. They also loose all of their memories, the happy ones and the painful ones. But when Nikki wakes up, the memory of a brown-haired boy is glued inside her mind. Since she didn’t age, Nikki gets to choose, and instead of death or the life of an Everliving, she chooses to Return to earth. Unfortunately this Return is on one condition: she only has six months before the Shades come and get her. That doesn’t mean she will die. No, her fate when the Shades get her will be much worse than death. It will include an eternity in nothingness. But Nikki is willing to take that risk as long as she gets to see that brown-haired boy one last time.

As she returns to Earth, her memories return as well. Turns out that brown-haired boy is her ex-boyfriend Jack, whom she loved deeply. Now let me say that the “Missing Adult” syndrom is heavily present in this book, since everyone, including Nikki’s father accepts her reasons for dissapearing for six months with ease. No significant search parties. No long police reports about where she was at, no scoulding for ever dissapearing. Putting that aside, Nikki goes back to school as if nothing happened. But things did happen. She is estranged from her class mates, her former best friend and of course, from Jack. But she’s determined to stay on earth and to at least say goodbye to every one, something she couldn’t do the last time. As we see Nikki struggling to get her old life back and to apologize to her old friends, we are occassionally shown how her life was prior to everything that happened and that brought her to the Everneath. Turns out that she and Jack had a sweet albeit short-lived relationship, complete with little moments that make you go ‘aaaah how cute’. Nikki’s life was far from perfect, but she was happy. It makes the reader wonder how and when that happiness got smatched into smithereens, causing her to leave everything behind and leave for the Everneath. Let me just say that it’s not as cliché and stupid as a relationship gone wrong; at least that’s not all there is to it. But as to what else, you’ll have to find out for yourself. This dual perspective, of the narrator Nikki before the Everneath – an ordinary, hopeful, cheerful young girl who already had her fair share of trouble in life but is willing to cope with it – and then Nikki afterwards, an empty shell of her former self, a zombie-like girl who lets life just wash over her in a sense, but is on the other hand also fighting desperately to keep hold of her own life before the Tunnels come to devour her.

Nikki is a very dual-sided character, which makes her interesting and a lot more intriguing than ordinary YA heroines. She isn’t some kick-ass warrior-type fighter, or some extraordinary powerful witch or goddess or whatever. No, in fact, she’s quite the opposite. Nikki Beckett is ordinary. She’s about as ordinary as they come. And even though she got tricked into going to the Everneath, there she’s nothing but food to feed on for the Everlivings. But what does Nikki do that makes her more than ordinary? It’s not some secret power she inherited through generations, or some ancient magic that lives up inside of her. It’s love. Love makes her hold on. Love makes her hope. A love so powerful that she, unlike everyone else in the Everneath, does not let go of her memories. She cherishes them instead, she leans and supports on them, and they pull her through in the very end. Nikki Beckett has a special power for sure. She loves. And when she does, she does so wholeheartedly, with her entire being. And it’s that unconditional, powerful love that gave her the strength to survive the Everneath and to make the decision to Return to the Surface, even though only for six months. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Nikki Beckett’s only superpower. I found it so amazing and refreshing to read about a heroine who is both completely powerless and completely powerful at the same time. Nikki has no extraordinary abilities like magic or anything of the kind, not like most YA heroines who suddenly discover that they’re excellent witches or talented vampire slayers. But Nikki isn’t one to sit around and be powerless either. She takes control of her own life, and she basically gives Hell, the Everneath, the Everlivings and all the rest of the world the middle finger. She will certainly die within six months, but she isn’t about to be bullied into choosing the easy path by anyone, no matter how hard they try.

Nikki Beckett is one of those people who fight blindly for love and who do so with their very being. That’s the only thing that makes her extraordinary, but it’s more than enough. It makes her unique. It makes her a lovable and enjoyable character, a person of whom we all wish we could be more like her. Additionally, there is a giant gap between the Nikki-before and the Nikki-after, and it’s interesting to see the changes the Everneath has had on her. As she regains more and more of her humanity and actual human emotions seem to slip through, we also find out more about her journey. She returns from the zombie-like state she was in first, with as only wish to say a proper goodbye, to a girl willing to fight for her own destiny and her own life. She sheds of the feeling of defeat and “I can’t do anything about it anyway” and instead she gets off her butt and goes and tries to do something about it. I have to admit she might have never gotten to that poin if it weren’t for Jack and the fact that he’s the sweetest boyfriend in the world, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that she isn’t willing to give up nor is she willing to back down. Without superpowers. That, my dear readers, makes her a true kick-ass heroine.

Jack, the male protagonist on the other hand, well he reminded me pretty much of Xander from the Buffy The Vampire Slayer series. Jack is a jock though, quarterback of the football to be precise, but he’s a soft cookie when it comes to real love. He was supposedly the town’s lady killer before he fell head over heels in love with Nikki, but I have trouble believing that. He seems way too soft-hearted and kind for that behavior. I liked Jack I suppose, but he wasn’t my favorite guy in the love triangle, that’s for sure. And yes, that’s another cliché in this book. There’s a love triangle. Mind you, Nikki doesn’t exactly express her feelings for the second member of this alleged love triangle, but if you ask me, it’s pretty obvious.

Meet Cole, the Everliving who brought Nikki along to the Everneath, boy number two in the love triangle. He is by far my favorite bad boy character in the last two or three years. He is wicked and downright evil at times, but sometimes we see an entire other side of him. You can’t just add this character to the ‘good’ or ‘evil’ categories, because he balances inbetween. His feelings for Nikki obviously show, but on the other hand he was the one who dragged her into the Everneath and nearly killed her. And his feelings might just have to do with him needing her to overthrow the current queen of the Everlivings as well. But even though so, I had the idea that his feelings for her were genuine. Confused yes, because it’s generally accepted that Everlivings can’t fall in love, but real nevertheless. The love triangle in Everneath doesn’t make me cringe, like I do in most other love triangles. Some are well-executed and add all the more tension, but some are just lame. Definitely not the case here. But I’m all Team Cole. Sorry for that Jack. I like you as well you know, but it’s that bad boy vibe really.

The plot is well-structured and the characters are so complex and three-dimensional that they make this novel really intriguing. Brodi Ashton throws most of the highschool stereotypes overboard and instead of stereotypes she provides us with real, honest people. Awesome job in that department. On the downside though, the ending is one large cliché mess I saw coming from hundred pages prior. It also ends with a major cliffhanger. Cliffhangers do two things to me: for starters, they make me all the more eager to read the second book in the series, but also…they make me extremely agitated and nervous. I want to know what happens. Like right now. Please? Pretty please?

Everneath is definitily one of the better YA novels of the last couple of years. Fans of the paranormal romance genre and mythology will certainly be pleased with this one. The worldbuilding is impressive and refreshing, the characters are well-developed and intriguing and the plot is unbelievably tidy, with no loose strings except the cliffhanger at the end. The flashbacks don’t slow the story down, and if anything, they offer more insight in the characters. As a bonus, this book offers a believable love-triangle with two boys who each have their assets, and the classic love-conquers-all theme. There are some clichés, but you can easily overlook and forgive them. Recommended to all fans of the paranormal romance genre. You will not be dissapointed.

This book counts towards the Debut Author Challenge, the Speculative Romance Challenge and YA Mythology Challenge.

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