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…
If the synopsis alone is already making you perform a facepalm-groan combination, fear not: it made me groan too. It’s YA. It’s a shitty Persephone/Hades retelling with shitty, cutesy terms the author probably thinks teenagers would make up, while insisting that we take them completely seriously as part of her setting’s mythos (Everliving! The Tunnels!). It’s the kind of novel that wants you to believe teenage love is forever, the kind of novel that can’t be taken seriously if you are an adult. What more needs to be said? It’s so samey and pointless and worthless that even my review of it will be half-assed despite the length. This is the kind of book that has nothing to say, and which you can’t say anything about due to its inherent hollowness, the kind of book that could kill you by sheer ennui. In short, it’s emblematic of much of YA as a genre.
But at least the gender politics in this book are less fucked-up than usual. Huzzah!
I don’t need to talk about the plot because this is the kind of book where the synopsis does explain all there is to the plot: there’s no more to it, no hidden anything, no subplots of interest. It’s a fucking tiny puddle. As most YA fiction tends to be. It doesn’t even deal with Feminism 101 issues well like Melissa Marr and it’s about straight white middle-class teenagers from the US (I think they are American, anyway; westerners are all so much the same I can’t tell you guys apart) in love, which is to say: dullness personified. Bookified. Fuck, I don’t know why I read it. We are subjected, within the first few pages, to…
I reached for his hand, then hesitated as I remembered that face. The one with the brown eyes. The boy with the hands that fit mine just right. [...]
He was a human, and he was on the Surface. Where I’d left him. I knew it like I knew I needed air to live.
His eyes were exactly as I’d remembered, exactly as I’d pictured every day for the past hundred years. Chocolate. But there was one difference: a single steel post pierced one of his eyebrows.
It wouldn’t have belonged on his face a year ago, but it somehow fit the face looking at me now. This face was edgier. This face had been through something.
The narrative alternates between present-day now and Nikki as she was before she went underworld (“Everneath” is so fucking twee), dealing with her family life and her insipid relationship with the insipid jock, Chocolate Eye. I mean Jack. Anyway it follows the well-trod path beaten so flat it’s lost all dimension of “shy girl in love with popular sporty boy” with a dose of “slutty girls pick on shy virginal girl” internalized misogyny, and a bunch of stereotypical highschool drama that’s probably imminently sympathetic if you’re a North American teenager or an adult who never grew out of being teenage. In case you thought this might turn the tables around for once, you are wrong, because the shy virginal girl is–well–virginal whereas her popular jock boyfriend has a reputation of being a lady’s man and zzzzz sexism. He has a dazzling smile, he looks amazing, he’s had scads of girlfriends (who are all slutty whore mcwhorefaces because duh), and Nikki’s pleased as punch when he finally begins paying her attention Ph’nglui Mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
Sorry, that just slipped out.
Nikki, if nothing else, has a sympathetic female friend–which is more than can be said of the majority of her type of “heroines”–and I think they may even spend a few pages here and there discussing things other than boys, gosh wow post-feminist culture man. Bizarrely the friend’s hair “always looked like a snapshot of a waterfall, as if it should be moving” which neither makes sense nor makes for good prose, but may be the type of imagery a teenager who doesn’t read or a subliterate adult will find evocative and striking. Remembering Chocolate Eye’s face was the only reason Nikki managed to pull herself out of the underworld, incidentally, which is nice because let us never forget that a girl’s life should revolve around boys and boys alone, god forbid she has anything else to live for. I mean couldn’t she have remembered something else in addition to Chocolate Eye? Something about her mom or her best friend Jules? Haha, but of course not, we’re in YA territory and fuck that shit amirite, hot boys are the MOST important thing in the world! We are also told that, after a century of Everneath time (conveniently only six months or so in real-world time), Nikki has lost all ability to feel emotion except–
My heart sputtered. I glanced up. Jack’s back was to me, so I watched, grateful for the chance to stare at him.
He waited. My heart felt like it would burst through my chest into a million little pieces, and I could see this wasn’t going to work.
And on, and on. Clearly she has plenty of emotions and Brodi Ashton isn’t a very good writer. We are also treated to disgusting dialogue like–
He pressed his lips into my hair. “I love you, Becks. I’ve never felt like this.”
I nodded against him, still unsure if I could believe him. I thought about Lacey and the way she was standing next to him. “You’ve never been in love?”
He let out a quiet breath, and I felt him shake his head. “Easy to say. Harder to feel.”
The sad thing is that–barring this whole TRUE LOVE shittiness–if these two had been girls and the book about lesbians I’d have given it a pass with flying colors. Admittedly I’d do so while complaining about how mediocre the prose is, but don’t you think this would have worked so much better as a lesbian love story? Exactly. I’m glad you agree. Straights are so dull. Oh, and here’s the obligatory EVIL SLUT picking on VIRGINAL GOOD GIRL thing:
“She didn’t—” one girl started to say, but then she stopped.
“If it makes you feel any better, Lace, he’ll be over her fast. She has no backbone. She’ll give it up, and he’ll get tired of her, like he does everyone else. Then maybe he’ll come back to you.”
My hands started to shake. I wasn’t just another girl; the gossip was overblown. Jack wasn’t going to get tired of me. Was he? He’d told Lacey he loved her. Was she lying?
I realized I was leaning against the stall door, my hand over my heart as if I could hold it in. Even if he did tell her he loved her, he was here with me. That meant everything, didn’t it?
The truth was, I didn’t know. I’d never had a boyfriend, and Jack obviously had more experience than me. I didn’t want to be like the others, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be with him. It didn’t stop me from wanting him to want me.
The EVIL SLUT even steals into her true love’s room, that shameless hussy, and causes the misunderstanding that drives Nikki to the underworld to start with.
There’s some silly cult-thing called the Daughters of Persephone, who breed their daughters specifically to become “Forfeits” (people sacrificed to feed the “Everlivings” and isn’t that an inane name?). Now you might be tempted to ask: why only daughters? Where are the female Everlivings abducting boys and draining them dry? The author never answers this. Everything is predictably heteronormative too, so there’s no question of a male Everliving (barf) abducting a boy, or a female one abducting a girl. In any case, it’s only after her true love starts making suggestions that Nikki really gets into the business of trying to evade her fate of being dragged back into the creatively-named Tunnels where she’ll be used as psychic batteries or something, I wasn’t really paying attention–the point is, until her boyfriend galvanizes her she never really tries to do much, instead resigning herself to making farewells as gracefully as possible, and making sure her remaining family–asshole father and little brother–don’t get sad after she’s gone. I do quite like that, actually; Nikki’s a very responsible, emotionally mature person. But I don’t like how much of her motivation revolves around her boyfriend, brother, and father, all men.
The mother is, naturally, conveniently dead. If nothing else the boyfriend ends up sacrificing himself, so that’s more than can be said for most “MY BOY IS MY LIFE, I WILL GIVE ALL I HAVE FOR HIIIIM” YA heroines. I could go on to make a point how the only living mother in this entire novel is a cold-blooded one who sacrifices her daughter to the underworld as part of a scheme to grab immortality, but this novel is so fantastically half-assed and hideously boring that I can’t muster much more to say about it apart from noting that:
My house, after the Shop-n-Go.
My car. The parking lot.
This shows up to precede every other scene, in true fanfiction style because Brodi Ashton can’t write and is unable to convey a sense of location or transition properly. In case you ever doubt how scintillating clever she is, we’ve got Nikki writing a Persephone/Hades retelling set in a modern high school. Which is basically what Everneath is. SHITCEPTION’D!
Mrs. Stone read through a rough draft of my paper, and one day after school she sat in the desk in front of me. “Nikki, you seem to have a chip onyour shoulder when it comes to ancient myths.”
“What do you mean?”
She smiled. “You place an inordinate amount of blame on some of the central figures of Greek mythology.”
I was quiet for a moment, unsure of how to answer.
“Don’t get me wrong. I love how you’ve seamlessly planted characters such as Persephone in a modern high-school setting. Superb.” She placed the stack of papers on my desk. “But you, as the author, are letting your disdain show through.”
“How?” I asked.
She gave me a wry smile. “Like when your modern Demeter, and basically everyone else who’s even nice to your Persephone, gets killed or maimed by random acts of violence.
“Superb,” is it?
All in all, this is worthless claptrap. At least Wicked Lovely does Feminism 101 right; this one is just a mound of steaming mediocrity.
Oh, and in case you ever see Brodi Ashton pretend to do some social justicing or join up with one of those “YAY GAY/YAY COLOR” campaigns or whatever it is that she might want to do to look good, keep in mind that this book has the following:
Chromatic character count: 0
QUILTBAG character count: 0
Non-neurotypical character count: 0
Characters from background other than middle-class: 0
Characters who are not from the west: 0
Physically disabled character count: 0