Review originally published here
.Why I Read It:
The book store I work at got an ARC from the publisher and no one wanted it, so I decided to nab it. I'm a little on the fence about this book. On the one hand, it was kind of forgettable. There are already a lot of details about the story and world-building that I've forgotten. On the other hand, I remember having a decent time while reading this. Not a perfect read by far, but still mildly entertaining.
One thing that I was kind of hung up on right off the bat were the eye-thingies that Aria's people wore. These little devices would suction themselves onto people's eyes and then immerse them into some kind of digital/alternate reality. In this place, they never needed to worry about things like clipping their nails or girls having their periods. But I don't understand how that translated to real life. I mean, yeah, it's great that everyone can be awesome in the Realms, but how would a digital alternate world keep from their real bodies from changing? It confused the beejezus out of me, especially when Aria gets her period for the first time while she's Outside and it's all like "OH NOES IT'S BECAUSE I'M NOT IN THE DOMES ANYMORE." and I'm like "How does that even make sense???"
Then there's the lack of the world-building on a macro level. For some reason the world has been ridden with these things called Aether Storms. It's like... I dunno, lightning on crack or something? But it's Serious Business because it has obviously torn the world asunder and created this divide between the people who stay Inside and the dirty cannibals (obviously) who for some reason remained Outside. Anyway, the Aether Storms are never explained -- why are they there? what's caused them? etc. etc. -- though this is the first in a trilogy so maybe that will all be cleared up.
Now, this is a whole lot of complaining, but there were some things I liked. For one, despite much of the novel just being Aria and Perry walking through the wasteland that is Outside, the pacing felt all right. There always seemed to be *something* of interest happening and I don't recall ever being bored -- I was just never especially IMPRESSED. But I don't need my socks knocked off every time I read a book.
The other thing I liked was the friendship between Aria and Perry. That went to shit unfortunately when the two fell so predictable in luuurrrvvveee, but I actually liked seeing the gradual change from hostility, to general dislike, to liking them begrudgingly, to then finally respecting and liking each other. If it had stayed at that, I would've been happy as a clam. I love reading about friendships, especially reluctant ones (no matter how predictable) because there's something about them that make me all warm and fuzzy. When it devolves into romance though? It has to be done superbly for me to be invested and that didn't come through here. They jumped from "respecting and liking each other" to "loving and wanting to sex each other" way too quickly, completely unlike their slow-burning friendship. It all made me kind of grumpy in the end, but I still liked 90% of the journey there. It's not like I couldn't see it coming anyway.Final Verdict:
Yeah, this story had some holes (how did the Realms work exactly? I still don't understand those eye-thingies), a lack of world-building (what the hell are the Aether Storms exactly?), and a ridiculously obvious love story that I wasn't invested in, but it had some redeeming qualities too: I actually liked the pacing of the story and despite this not being the most well-written story, I was still mildly entertained. I also really liked the FRIENDSHIP between the two main characters -- it was nice and gradual and everything that the romance was NOT. But alas, that is the nature of the dystopian trend. Anyway, I recommend this with reservations, and I'll probably be around for book two when it comes out next year.