If I was simply a "judge a book by its cover" kind of girl, I would not have picked up Everneath by Brodi Ashton. I mean, don't get me wrong--it's an attractive cover. But lately there just seem to be so many "semi-faceless girl in a long flowing dress" books that they all blend together. Likewise, some parts of the book's premise seem dully similar to so very many of today's YA books.... Nikki is being forced to choose between Cole (the bad boy with a strangely magnetic hold over her) and Jack (her first love, who she fears she has lost forever).
There were actually two factors that caused me to put this book on my TBR list. For starters, it's featured as Utah's book in Epicread's "United States of YA," which I've already announced my intentions of conquering. Second was the blurb from Ally Condie (who I love) on the front cover, which reads, "I was pulled under by this bittersweet, beautiful retelling of the Persephone myth. Wonderful!" I am definitely a sucker for modern retellings of ancient myths. And in spite of my initial hesitation, Everneath did not disappoint.
Either six months or 100 years ago, depending on how you figure, Nikki Beckett made a decision that changed her life. Devastated by pain and betrayal on all sides, she begs mysterious musician Cole to make all the hurt go away. And he does--by wrapping her in his embrace and transporting her to the Everneath, where he Feeds off of her emotions to sustain his own eternal life. Slowly, all of Nikki's memories of life on the surface are stripped away, until the only thing she has left to cling to is an image of a face. She can't even remember the name of this boy with floppy brown hair and big brown eyes, but somehow, his mere image keeps her clinging to life.
At the end of the Feed, Cole is stunned to find Nikki still young and vital, not an elderly skeleton like the hundreds of other mortals he has Fed on over the years. Moreover, he is shocked that she chooses to Return to her life on the surface rather than succumb to death in the Tunnels. She is granted a reprieve of six months on the surface before the Tunnels come for her, but the Nikki that returns is an emaciated, hollowed-out version of the one who disappeared without a trace six months before. Cole pursues her to the surface, convinced that she holds the key to his ascension to the throne of the Everneath. Against all of this obstacles, Nikki tries to reclaim some shard of her old life, rehabilitate her relationship with her family, and smooth some of the pain that her disappearance caused. And then there's Jack--she is as drawn to him as she has always been, but she doesn't want to cause him any more pain....
Conveniently, Nikki's English class spends the year studying mythology, and her story is sprinkled with references to the study of Osiris and Isis, Hades and Persephone, and Orpheus and Eurydice. She struggles to make sense of how she can use the knowledge from these myths to find a way to escape both the Tunnels and Cole and remain on the surface for good.
I do think that the book overall could have been improved (at least in my opinion) by a heavier dose of mythology--more explanation of the original myths and how they related to Nikki's story. I had to call heavily on my own background knowledge of mythology to understand how they tied in, and in some cases, I felt like I was stretching the connections--was I reaching the conclusions that Ashton intended, or was I just making stuff up? I'm guessing that most YA readers don't have the same level of background knowledge of mythology as this high-school-English-teacher-turned-librarian, so I felt that including more detail (particularly since the novel is billed as being "a modern retelling of the Persephone myth") on the mythology was almost vital to the storyline.
Without the mythology, the storyline has some serious holes in it. There's this great action sequence toward the end where Nikki and Jack are researching ancient Egyptian symbols in an attempt to foil both Cole and the Tunnels, and I really thought things were getting fascinating.... and then things abruptly shifted directions (and it was still action-packed and interesting, but in a very different way). And yet, in spite of my complaints about lack of consistency, I must admit that I tore through this entire book in less than a day--which is a very, very rare event in my overscheduled life. And upon finishing the book, I immediately rushed to Goodreads to find out what the other books in the series are (novella called Neverfall, then Everbound, then Evertrue) and if they have all been published or if I'd be stuck waiting (Evertrue came out TODAY--yes!!!!!). So in spite of complaints, I did love the book and am anxious to read the rest of the series. Anybody else read it? What did you think??