Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton - what YA should be

TITLE: Everneath
AUTHOR: Brodi Ashton
PAGES: 384
FORMAT: Kindle (but I want it paperback now, because it deserves a spot on my bookshelf)
ISBN: 978-0062071132
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8.5/10 [all books I’ve read]. New number system again!
FOR: Fans of YA, myths, fantasy, paranormal, romance, and well-written books with complex characters.

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s 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 precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen. As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is 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 queen.

I was first drawn to Everneath by its super snazzy cover, but a cover does not a great book make. Nope. That job was done by the tight writing, perfect pacing, loveable characters, and the very original plot. It brilliantly avoided loads and loads of YA/Teen clich├ęs . . . by starting in the middle. You begin right as Nikki returns aboveground, wondering, “What the heck happened for all the time before this?” Only it’s a good wondering, because you have enough of an idea from the book jacket to have a sense of the first chapter, and you (if you’re like me) already feel a lot of suspense. But fear not, you’ll get the back story later, in cleverly placed flashbacks that enrich the present story and teasingly let slip a few details at a time, so you’re never dumped with information bad-fantasy-style.

I like to make my reviews as objective as I can, but I’m having a hard time saying anything bad about this book. There were a few lines or short scenes here and there that I thought could have been done better, and sometimes the mythic ties seemed a little farfetched. However . . . that was about it. Maybe I’d give it 9 or 10 if it was a little more lyrical and profound, but that’s not really what you’re looking for in a YA book, is it? And Ashton managed to be a good deal profound without dragging down the story. Nikki is a complex character with a dark past, but she’s neither a superhero, nor a puppet, nor a martyr. She tries to take control of her life, but it’s not always easy for her and though she has some support, in the end, she’s the one who has to make the hard decisions. Her relationship with her father is believably strained. Jack is a genuinely good guy. Cole is tortured but realistically, not like some of the brooding badboys I’ve loathed in other novels. Jules could use more page-time, but that’s a small critique. Short version: The characters are fantastic. You don’t get a lot of descriptions of how they are; they just are. These are real people you’re just meeting, and you get to know them better page by page.

And the plot? Where do I begin? I genuinely enjoyed reading this every night and had a hard time putting it down—or I’d put it down because I didn’t want to finish too fast; I wanted to savor it. The weird thing—not a lot happens. It’s not constant action. A lot of the middle is Nikki readjusting to high school life. BUT it’s never boring. There is always tension because page by page, Nikki is getting closer to her deadline. Every moment feels like a last moment. And the atmosphere is somehow soft and magical and dark: a psychological study of a troubled teen girl—who took her self-medication to supernatural levels. With plenty of romance. The sweet, believable kind. And one of the best love triangles (maybe the best) I’ve ever read in YA. Just an all-around great book with wide appeal.

So read Everneath and go check out Brodi Ashton! Great author, very accessible. Find her at @brodiashton and! (As we speak, I’m geeking out because I replied to something she said and she replied back. TWICE. A real life published awesomely awesome author. To ME!)

Coming up soon: A review of Lichgates by S.M. Boyce (@thesmboyce) . . . with a few surprises!