Under the Never Sky  - Veronica Rossi For some reason, I had somewhat high expectations for this book. I don't even know why, really. I thought the premise sounded cool. Like, "Ooh! Firestorms! Cannibals! It sounds so exciting!" Plus the average rating on Goodreads is pretty high ... although, by now I probably should have learned that the average rating means pretty much nothing. So, I'd like to tell ya what this book is about, but to be honest I'm not sure how to describe it. Basically this girl, Aria, is exiled from her dystopian-society-thing and must survive in the wilderness ... where of course she meets a "sexy boy" named Perry who can smell people's feelings. (Yeah, we'll get to that later.) There's some vague plot about Aria trying to find her mother, and Perry trying to find his nephew who has been captured. But mostly it's just about the two of them wandering around, not really doing much.Over all, this just gets a big "meh" from me. I didn't like much about it, but it wasn't particularly infuriating/annoying either so I'm not giving it one star. It had some minor redeeming qualities, but mostly I just had a lot of issues with it.The world-buildingThis is another one of those YA books that claims to be a "dystopia," yet barely any effort goes into creating the dystopian society. Basically, Aria comes from this place where they all wear these gadgets on their eyeballs called "Smarteyes"––which put them all into an alternate reality thing. Sounds pretty cool and all ... the thing was, this wasn't very clearly established for the first 50 pages or so. For a while I was pretty confused. For example, there was this little sentence on page 7:"During the last song, the stadium flooded with seawater. Everyone had transformed into mermaids and mermen."Before that, I'd already gathered that we were in some kind of futuristic setting, but this still seemed to kind of come out of nowhere. I read the sentence probably three times and I was still, like, "What?! How'd they do THAT?" Then outside this society was just ... the rest of the world, pretty much? I didn't really get it. I don't know, woods and caves and stuff. I'm sure I missed some details due to skimming, since I started to get bored after a while. But over all, there didn't seem to be much effort in the world-building department. Often, I didn't really know where the characters were or why they were there. The slangOkay, I understand that in the future, people will probably talk differently and have new words and things like that. And sure, made-up slang can work well in books. For example, I think Scott Westerfeld does a nice job with that kind of stuff in his series––like in Uglies when they use a few words like "bubbly" and "icy" and "happy-making" or whatever. And at least these were used in a context that made sense and weren't used every other word ... so it wasn't too overbearing or confusing. Then we have some of the dialogue that Veronica Rossi writes:"Champ, man. It's unreal. I mean, it's real. Zap, you know what I mean."And it's like... Umm no, I don't know what you mean ... ?In my opinion, it's hard to connect with characters when they sound that ridiculous. While I basically understand what's being said, it still feels too crammed with slang words. And because of that, it just sounds forced and unbelievable. Not to mention that I really don't think anyone will ever replace curse words with things like "zap." Why would you say that when we already have such amazing swear words?Well anyway, moving on to other issues.AriaOh hooray, another Mary-Sue protagonist in a YA book.Aria pretty much has no notable flaws at all. She was genetically enhanced so that she would be an amazing singer, and thus can just break out into a heart-wrenching opera song whenever she wants. (Also, her mother chose such a subtle name for her.) She also apparently looks incredibly sexy and smells like flowers even when she goes for days without bathing.Like, really. Perry has a sense of super smell, and you'd think he would be like, "Whoa, I can smell all the sweat in your armpits and the grime in your hair." Instead he's like, "Ahhh, Aria always smells like a field of daisies!" Oh, and he also thinks her period smells like "violets." That's right, ladies and gentlemen ... Aria is so wonderful that her period smells like flowers.PerryPerry is not much better as a character. Again, we have a rather big asshole passed off as being a quality boyfriend. Maybe it's just me, but he kind of seemed like a bad rip-off of Jace from The Mortal Instruments. Maybe just because he had curly golden hair and a lot of tattoos ... but, yeah. Except instead of killing demons, he kills innocent people instead!Like, there was this one part where he left Aria alone for a while. She wandered out of the cave they had been hiding in, and started talking to these three random guys that she met. Then, Perry comes back out of nowhere, shoots two of the guys and beheads the third. His argument is, "THEY WERE OBVIOUSLY CANNIBALS."Really, man? Really? I mean, if they had been covering Aria in steak sauce and dangling her over a fire, then I would have been a bit concerned. But ... she was just talking to them. You could have at least tried to talk to them, dude. Maybe they really were cannibals, but there wasn't very concrete evidence for that ... And uh yeah, he has a super-strong sense of smell, which apparently allows him to smell people's feelings (and to think it smells wonderful when blood gushes out of a vagina). I really don't understand how that works, but okay. Not much to say about that. I just thought it was strange.He also just said some very, unnecessarily rude things to Aria. For example:"I have killed a woman before. Keep talking. You might be the second."OMG I'M JUST FANGIRLING OVER HIM HE'S SO HAWT AND WONDERFUL.But anyway in all seriousness ... I don't really understand what there is to like about this guy.The romanceIt was just ... forced. It felt like the typical, "Oh this is a YA book so it needs some ROMANCE." But the romance is not thoroughly developed. Perry is an asshole to Aria for a while, then he starts to like her. All of a sudden, he's nice to her and they kiss and stuff! But, there aren't really any steps between those two different stages of their relationship.Also, I think this book wins for "most awkward sex scene ever." I don't have a problem with there being sex in YA books, but I prefer that if it's going to happen, it should be particularly powerful or meaningful in some way. In this book, they just kinda ... did it. For no particular reason. They were like, hiding from wolves, and then suddenly they were having sex. And this was accompanied by a strange conversation that went something like this:Aria: Lawlz, can I get preggers from this?Perry: *sniffs the air* NOPE, I can smell that you are not ovulating so it's all good!Aria: Haha ok. *allows sex*Uhh. What.Mmmm ... the sweet smell of UTERUS ...Well, anyway. I give the book props for a few things. For example, Aria was actually given a weapon and taught a bit about fighting ... so at least she wasn't completely helpless.Also the fact that she got her period in the book is somewhat cool, since authors tend to not bother to talk about that ... although, it's the kind of thing I don't really want to read about, just like I don't really want to read about people pooping. But, it is a part of daily life so I guess it was realistic. So, yay?And I still think the premise had potential. I like the idea of alternate realities, and it brings up some intriguing questions ... like, would you give up things being "real" just so you would be happy all the time? Stuff like that. I just wish more exciting things had happened––because for a book that claimed to be full of firestorms and cannibals ... there wasn't much of either of those things. Over all, I just wasn't crazy about this. It wasn't one of the worst things I've ever read, but it wasn't the best either. In comparison to a lot of dystopian books I love––for example, the Chaos Walking books by Patrick Ness, or Blood Red Road by Moira Young––this book just didn't hold up. So, I'd recommend those and not really this one. Yay! The end.