Book Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Krispy got this book from the library on a whim because she'd heard good things about it and was vaguely interested.  As usual, I stole it from her.  The book was much less dramatic than the blurb implied and was full of connotations of abusive relationship justification and metaphoric rape that's not really rape because hey, she wanted it. 

Congratulations, Everneath, you are Alz's first F-grade book of 2012!  Congratulations again, you've received the lowest grade I've ever given a book so far!  And given that I've dished out several Fs in the past, that's an all-time low.  I hate this book so, so much.  As you all know, I read a lot of YA and dislike a lot of YA, but YA rarely offends me the way this book did.

Raging Alz.
This is going to be long.  Long and sordid.  But I want you to know exactly how this book deeply offended me with its overall badness and especially it's portrayal of (metaphoric) rape and victimhood.

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Pros: If you have low blood pressure, reading this will raise it.
Cons: Reading this will give you high blood pressure and possibly an aneurysm or a heart attack; the metaphoric rape; the so-called romance; the metaphoric rape; the so-called plot; the metaphoric rape.

Intellectual Rating: 0 out of 10 stars
Emotional Grade: F-

Book Blurb: (from Goodreads)  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...

Alz's Take: Let's try something a little different, shall we?  I know authors have nothing to do with their blurbs, but this one is a magnificent example of how subtly misleading blurbs can be.  The story it describes isn't the one I read.  Let's repost the blurb above and point out the differences.
Last spring [I thought it was winter, actually], Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans [sounds dramatic but they don't actually have to be despairing]. 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 [which apparently she just knows since it's never once explained or mentioned how she knows she has six months or why she gets six months], six months for good-byes she can't find the words for [read: half a year of her angsting and ruining the lives of everyone around her because she's so self-centered and makes no progress on these supposed good-byes], six months to find redemption, if it exists. [It doesn't for her because she hasn't exactly done anything that requires, deserves, or needs redeeming. Yeah, she vanished suddenly without warning and quarreled with a couple of people, but this entire book convinced me that Nikki doesn't actually know the definition of redemption.]

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, [which means she spends these months avoiding him, lying to him, giving him the cold shoulder for his own good, deciding not to tell him that she is in fact going to have to leave permanently, etc.] the one person she loves more than anything [he's a hot football jock and that's it, so I have a hard time figuring out why she is so desperately in love with him, especially considering that he has a past history as a player and lacks the manners to even walk her to the door when he drives her home from a date]. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath [this is incorrect as he did not entice her to the Everneath; he metaphorically roofied and raped her for three days before dragging her there while she was figuratively drugged], has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen. ["Do whatever it takes" means just hang around for six months being a creepy stalker, alternately begging Nikki to come back and threatening her. Also, he's not a king and her coming back doesn't necessarily mean she will become queen, though what exactly this means and who/where/why/what it involves in the Everneath is never wholly explained.]

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp [she spends SIX MONTHS being maudlin and making no progress whatsoever in anything she came back to do], she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate [she waits until the very last week before deciding maybe she ought to try to find a way out of her predicament] and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's... [This makes it sound like she's actually romantically attracted to Cole, and really she isn't, although this doesn't mean she's above flirting with him, using him, or wanting to be with him. The blurb also leaves out the fact that she has three choices: 1) try to cheat fate, 2) accept her doom wherein she must go to the Everneath's equivalent hell for some never-explained reason or 3) go with Cole to the Everneath instead of going to hell. Right from the beginning of the book she's determined NOT to go with Cole and stays firm in this decision for the entirety of the novel—and since she doesn't decide on #1 until the last week, that's essentially 90% of the book where Nikki morbidly accepts the fact that she's doomed to hell.]
It's no spoiler to tell you that you learn almost nothing about the Everneath except what's summarized in the blurb.  You never even see anything more of the Everneath than what you do in the prologue, which is a huge cavern with alcoves.  Oh, and there's apparently a queen and maybe some other people somewhere.  And the Tunnels, which are apparently a big scary deal that's so terrifying I nearly died of boredom.  The book banked on the fact that telling the reader repeatedly that the Tunnels are horrible will make them horrible, along with a two-second glimpse of a generic horror-movie scene.

What extremely little plot there is only comes into play in the last 80 pages or so, and that's when plot devices and extremely convenient help pops up left and right.  The erratic plot is further marred by poor editing because several times Nikki mentions how she has to do _____ and I was like WTF since she'd never even hinted at this decision/plot device/idea before.  This girl leaps to conclusions without bothering to tell the reader where she's leaping from, and these illogical plot jumps are never explained.

Nikki talks a lot about how she has a debt to the Tunnels/Everneath that must be repaid, but clearly Nikki doesn't know what the word debt means.  How exactly is she indebted to the Everneath?  

The majority of the book is Nikki (Now), intercut with flashbacks of Nikki (Last Year); in the present she's full of angst and in the past she's a stereotypical starry-eyed teen dating the generic hot popular boy.  By the way, that's a very helpful thing the book does: it wants to make absolutely sure you know exactly when and where Nikki is, so space breaks are prefaced by italics telling you her location, followed by Nikki announcing where she is in the first sentence thereafter.  Just a few examples:
"Lunch.  Five and a half months left.

At lunchtime, my lunch sack and knitting needles in hand, I tried to weave my way through the crowded halls as fast as I could, searching for a quiet place to eat. (p.22)"

"Christmas Dance.  Three months before the Feed.

Jack took me to the Christmas Dance.  (p.56)"

"My bedroom.  Four months left.

'Time's flying for you, Nik.'  Cole was sitting in the darkest corner of my bedroom, his guitar lying silent beside him. (p.92)"

"My car.  The parking lot

We ended up back in the parking lot of the soup kitchen, sitting in my car and trying to make sense of everything. (p.258)"
Yes indeed, Everneath is a book that banks on everything but actual good storytelling to carry its story through.  But how can you have a good story without, you know, good story?

You can't.  Which is why Everneath is a failure.

Krispy and another friend got me a real stamp of this
for a graduation gift.
There's a deficit of explanation for other Everneathian things such as, for instance, why and how Nikki gets six months on the Surface after her Return before she's hauled to the Tunnels by the Shades unless she agrees to become a Forfeit again and let her abusive Everliving love interest Feed upon her (lots of capitalization in this book that I could have done without).  How does she know she has six months?  Who tells her this?  Why did they even bother to let her Return?  How did she Return, exactly?

Unless I missed it somewhere while reading—and please do correct me if I did miss it—we never find any of this out.  And since the entire book hinges on her inexplicable and apparently unusual Return, well, that's a pretty big-ass plot hole.
I'm not even getting into the whole I-don't-understand-how-Nikki-becomes-a-battery-in-the-Tunnels-do-the-Everlivings-not-have-electricity-or-something thing—which isn't solely me being sarcastic, by the way.  At one point Nikki explains that life is made up of electrical impulses and the Everliving steal that electricity to prolong their own lives, which somehow magically means draining people's emotions.  Which can take the form of swirly pink and purple clouds flying around overhead and whizzing over to Cole and his bandmates to breathe in while playing a gig.

Hot damn that's shockingly dramatic.
Original image source: The Wanted.
Oh yes, did I forget to mention that Cole is in fact the super hot guitarist of the band the Dead Elvises?  And that Jack is the star high school football player?  And both are super amazingly in love with Nikki for no good reason that I can determine?

Let me refer you back to a post from last year where I talk about boys in love triangles because Everneath is a prime textbook example.

Cole is the blond spicyhot edgy mysterious dangerous badboy.
Jack is the childhood best friend stick figure who suffers from lack of character, history, and motivation.  That's right, folks, Jack doesn't even rank as high as tofu.

Both ardently desire Nikki.  Since the whole reason Nikki came back was to see Jack and it was in fact Jack's face that kept her sane during her hundred years in the vagueness of the Everneath, I thought he'd get some character development.  But there's nothing.  He used to be a player (but has always been a good guy, really!) until he fell in Troo Luv with Nikki…and that's it.  They have a generic high school romance and there's nothing in their relationship to make me believe there's a soul-deep connection between them or were even really in love.
Now let's talk about our spicyhot love triangle guy, Cole.  He is an emotionally manipulative, physically threatening, obsessive abusive rapist stalker and somehow I just don't find that attractive.  He's like Edward Cullen but the big difference is that Bella never considered Edward a creepy manipulative stalker (even though she should have) whereas Nikki actually does feel menaced and threatened by Cole and…still smiles and flirts with him anyway.

It was even more disturbing since Cole's actions carry heavy overtones of rape.  Think I'm exaggerating?  The prologue is all about the immediate aftermath of the Feed in the Everneath, which involves her and Cole cocooned together and forcibly pressed body-to-body with their arms wrapped around each other and legs tangled together for a hundred years while he Feeds upon her emotions (which means sucking them out of her and literally removing her capacity to feel and reason) without her consent.  And at the end of the Feed, her first thoughts have to do with getting away from Cole/not staying with Cole/going home and finding Jack.

Unfortunately, the sexual overtones of the Feed as set by the prologue taint every other instance of Feeding in the book.  P. 283 brings up the century-long sexytimes again even more explicitly: "My traitorous arms and legs wanted to tangle with Cole's again.  That hundred years in the Everneath had molded us together, and our bodies had memorized how they were supposed to fit."

As for that metaphoric roofie-and-rape thing I mentioned in the blurb edit at the beginning—I won't be specific about the plot and events, but I will be about the rape-y details.  So be forewarned that it is POSSIBLY MINORLY SPOILERY ahead.  

The whole scene is Feed-related and the facts that we eventually find out are clear:

  1. Nikki was emotionally distraught and hysterical at the time and Cole took advantage of her. 
  2. She didn't know what she was getting herself into because Cole chose not to explain. 
  3. While she "consented" the first (emotionally distraught) time, every time thereafter she told him to stop/changed her mind, he messed her up so that she was literally unable to protest. 
  4. He was forcibly doing something deeply personal to her without her consent for three days.  (The exact quote is "a few days" which I take to mean at least three and possibly more.)  So, basically, he kept her locked up so he could rape her for days.
  5. At the end of this time frame, he abducted her to the Everneath where he proceeded to metaphorically rape her for a hundred years.  Ah, young love.  Ah, YA romance.  Ah, another book I want to burn in a bonfire.

Despite all of this, Nikki still smiles at Cole and finds him attractive and can't bring herself to do anything about him.  Not, I suppose, that she can do much against an immortal stalker who pops up in her bedroom and can screw with people's emotions, but her thoughts toward him never contain any particular alarm, revulsion, anger, fear, etc.  Is he messing with her emotions every time he shows up?  Possibly, but she doesn't think about him any differently when he's not there.

Ultimately, Nikki tells herself that she asked for it and she wanted it, so it's okay.  That's right, peeps, the protagonist of this book is essentially a rape victim convincing herself that she really did want it as she carries on a twisted Stockholm-syndrome-ish relationship with her rapist.  She's in an abusive relationship and can't see it because she's convinced really, she wanted it, she was okay with it, really.

Yes, I am getting my use out of this doodle.

So Jack has no personality or character, Cole is a stalker-rapist, both "love" Nikki, and all this leads me to Nikki and how much I hated her too, quite aside from what's discussed above.

This girl is one of the most selfish YA heroines I've read.  She blames everyone but herself for her angst and the entire book would not have happened if she had just waited 15 seconds in her Dark Angsty Past instead of leaping to melodramatic conclusions and then to melodramatic actions.
For a girl who came back to say her goodbyes and give everyone closure, all she did was screw up all her relationships because of bad or delayed decisions, angst over herself, and spend no time with her family.  She's a party animal at her own self-pity party and she ain't never leaving.

Half the time she was angsting over how awkward things are with Jack now, and the other half of the time she'd be angsting that she should leave him alone, except she couldn't make herself do that.  This is not a story of grief and closure and emotional struggle; it is a story of baseless angst for the sake of angst with no depth or thematic exploration.

That's this entire book in a nutshell.  Nikki dicks around and angsts instead of doing anything or making choices, and then when things blow up in her face, she blames someone else and runs away.  Now, this would be fine as long as we see Nikki's transformation as she learns the error of her ways and shoulders responsibility and changes.  But she doesn't grow at all, ever.  Even the end of the book is pretty much Nikki doing nothing/blaming others/running away/depending on others to clean up her messes.

I also hated her because at one point prior to the whole Everneath Feeding thing, while Jack was still her boyfriend and they were on great terms, she was hanging out with Cole all the time and letting him flirt with her and get a little handsy, but it was okay because he was just her friend.  Except she actually thinks for a moment what it would be like if Jack's ex-girlfriend were hanging all over him the same way Cole was hanging all over her, and she doesn't like it.  But she doesn't stop Cole or pull away from him or say anything; she just lets Cole inappropriately carry on.

Let's move on and talk mythology.   Aside from blatantly and repeatedly referencing the Hades/Persephone myth in Nikki's English class, the book makes a big deal about the Orpheus/Eurydice myth.  Nikki latches on to the latter and distorts it with interpretations that make no sense because I've never in my life come across a version of the myth as she paints it: Eurydice survived because of Orpheus's love for her!  And a couple of other things that Alz isn't going to specify here since it would be spoilery, but rest assured it makes no sense in the context of the myth!

Nikki, Eurydice died.  I don't think there's any version of the myth that exists where she lived.  And as for the other unspecified things, that didn't happen and that doesn't make sense.

Orpheus: Wait, you lived? Since when??
Eurydice: You sacrificed yourself for me???
This image may be used without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose.
"Orpheus and Euridice" by George Frederic Watts from The Victorian Web.
I happen to love Greek mythology so this mutilation of it offended me because it was just so WTF.  She mangled the myth to fit her theory and it offended me even further because her theory turned out to be correct.  And since I already found 90% of the book offensive by this point, this just pushed me into a state of inarticulate a;sjfda;lsjf;aljsfsalfd.

There were actually a bunch of other things wrong with this book—plot devices (Magic bracelets!  Egyptian mythology for some reason!  Random inexplicable cults!  Dead mothers!), more plot holes, craptastic lack of worldbuilding, a Titanic-sized boatload of WTFery in the end, the ending itself which still makes me want to claw someone's eyes out, etc.—but this review is too long already and the rape thing, I just.  I can't.  WTF, Everneath.

Alz's Conclusion: I can see the appeal of Everneath if you don't think about it too hard, and probably if you love Twilight or Hush, Hush, you might want to check it out.  As it is, I need to find a pair of lead-lined gloves to pick this up for when I return it to Krispy since I don't want to touch it again.  Nikki Beckett deserves her eternity in hell for all the emotional disaster she visits upon the world through her angst, indecisiveness, and lack of growth.  Cole is a rapist, Nikki is okay with being raped, and Jack is slavishly devoted cardboard.  If I could time travel, I'd go back to when I was first picking this book up from Krispy, curbstomp myself in the face, and yell, "DON'T DO IT, ALZ!  The pain you feel now is nothing compared to what you will endure if you read that crime against literature!"


Anonymous said...

What a great review! Seriously. You backed up all your points with valid examples and gave the book what you thought it deserved. So refreshing to read an honest review without rose-colored glasses as I've read from other posters in the past!

Connie Keller said...

Wow. That's one book I'll be sure NOT to add to my TBR pile.

Angela Brown said...

Well, since I read the book, I got the gist of the spoilerish things you hadn't mentioned in the story.

Oddly, as much as I did NOT like Twilight for all the ridiculous over the top, OMG a vamp and a wolf are falling for me but I want to be a vamp, angstiness...I could bear it a little better in Everneath.

To kind of show the why behind my difference, Bella had WHAT reason for her angst? The only one that existed was "I'm a teen girl. Deal with it." Uh...No. For Nikki, she came back with ridiculous angst, no denying that, after having her life force sucked out of her by an Everling. That could do things to a guy or gal. Knock quite a few marbles around in the old noggin, if any are left after such drainage.

Now, even when I did my little mention for this book at my blog, I didn't go into details about the whole stalker boy thing...but yeah, I'm not sure I understand what makes that attractive. What makes it cool that some dude will creep into your room and just be there, all the time, whether your want them there or not? That creeped me out in Twilight and that creeped me out in this book.

The one thing I love about your review is your view points are not just thrown out there to be sticks or stones for the sake of being mean. Each negative or con of the novel was backed by examples. You even included fracking page numbers. If I write anything and you are the one to review it and you don't like it, THIS is the kind of review that I know I could stomach. You'd rip the story to shreds, but with honest examples for your viewpoint.

Two thumbs up, Alz...and that's coming from someone who kind of liked the book. I really enjoyed your honest review of this novel.

Julie Dao said...

I kind of knew this was a book I would probably never read, but only because I'm not into paranormal romance/fallen angels/vampires/werewolves/etc etc etc. Thank you for your thorough review. Definitely one that will NOT make it into my reading list. The cover is... pretty... though??

Yahong Chi said...

Eeek. Oh man. I'm half-laughing, half-cringing, the former because boy I don't know how a writer could write this badly, and the latter because um, creeper-stalkish behaviour and rape (even metaphorical) is so not cool.

There are times when I wonder if authors even know how badly they write... :P

Golden Eagle said...

I've seen this book around and thought to myself that the cover was interesting, but never read the blurb. Based on this review, Everneath is one story I will do my best to avoid.

The Eagle's Aerial Perspective

Lydia Kang said...

Another thoroughly honest review with some great Alz graphics that I love. Thank you for your thoroughness and humor.
Wow, an F. That is a big deal for a review. Wow. I haven't read this yet, and I admit I'm still curious enough to want to read it!
So...what does Krispy think?

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I think if girls picture these stalkers as just normal dudes and not magical beings, the creep comes out. Like if Twilight-guy was just a normal person telling you how he has to resist eating you, you'd run from the insane cannibal, you wouldn't fall for him.

linda said...

Whee, your review is here! :D I LOVE your lengthy review & all the illustrations. YOU ARE AWESOME. After reading your review I'm surprised I saw so many positive reviews from some usually critical bloggers.

But anyway I LOVE your reviews and hope you'll be doing another one soon! :D