Okay, so a few years back I critiqued some first pages at a writers' conference. There were a couple of stories that were fine but forgettable, some that were terrible, one that had so many made-up fantasy words that it might as well have been written in Finnish, and a cute little ten year old girl with quite a good alien abduction story. And then a lovely blonde in the corner of the room read her first pages, about a high school girl who's been missing for six months, and everyone assumes she's on drugs when she reappears, gaunt and haunted . . . but in reality she's just spent a century in the underworld. GRIPPING! FASCINATING! ACTUALLY GOOD!
Fast forward a couple of years and I meet Brodi Ashton through Bree Despain, and at a restaurant one night we start talking about that writers' conference, and I say, "Geez, I wish I knew what happened to that chick with the story about the girl serving time in hell." And Brodi goes, "Are you making fun of me?" Me: "No! Why?" Because that was her, the story was EVERNEATH, and she'd just gotten a contract for it. I was ecstatic for her!
But could the rest of the book live up to the promise of those first pages? Why yes, yes it could.
I LOVED this book! This was a creepy, fabulous twist on the myth of the underworld, mixing Persephone's story with Orpheus and Eurydice. Not only that, it was good YA. These were believable teens, talking in believable ways. There were enough details about school to make it seem real, without driving the reader crazy with minutiae. The bad guy really needed to be punched, repeatedly, about the head and genitals, and (this sounds horrible but its true) I loved how messed up Nikki was by her time in the Everneath. The little details about her hands shaking, and the way she just felt so fragile, were amazing.
Now that paranormal romance has its own department at Barnes & Noble, there are a lot of formulaic books out there. It's like, cue love triangle, cue reveal that he's a supernatural being, and begin trendy playlist! This is not one of those books, though. This is a real standout, with some VERY unexpected twists and some truly skillful writing.
I can't wait for EVERBOUND!