Nicole’s Rating: ★ ★
If you’re looking for a standard YA paranormal romance, you’ll probably be happy with Everneath. The book takes about 150 pages to get going, but it stays faithful to the usual genre tropes, such as having a love triangle, a persistently loyal love interest, and a mercurial immortal who mucks up normal life. If you’re not looking for any of these things, you might not enjoy this book.
How I Explained This Book to My Mother
It’s a reimagining of the Persephone and Hades story. This girl Nikki goes down into the Underworld (called the Everneath), and then she manages to escape back to the surface world… except this immortal guy Cole follows her and he’s all “BE MY UNDERWORLD QUEEN,” but Nikki says no because she’s obsessed with her old (non-immortal) boyfriend Jack. Nikki then spends six months sort of figuring out how not to get sucked back into the Everneath. The moral of the story is that heroes do exist.
Nikki narrates the book in first person. At her most melodramatic, she sounds like this (names removed to avoid spoilers, hopefully):
Separating from him now would be worse than anything I’d felt before. Separating from him now would make me bleed, and I would never stop.
I couldn’t speak as to what occupied _____’s mind on that drive, but I knew what I was hoping for. That ____ would be able to recover. That he would heal. That those who loved him would soon repair the broken sheathing around his raw soul . . .
On the other hand, there are surprising and authentic moments to savor, such as these:
“And when something surprises you and you don’t know what to say, you get a tiny wrinkle in between your eyebrows.” I reached up to touch the divot, then hesitated and lowered my hands. “It showed on the day the coach told you you’d made first-string quarterback. And it’s showing now.”
_____ was looking at me with a strange expression on his face.
“Whoa. You are the happiest sad person I’ve ever met.”
“Or the saddest happy person.” . . .
I tried a smile, so he couldn’t see how close he really was to the truth. “I’m not sad.”
“And she’s not afraid to lie.”
Do the Plot Lurch
This story is 370 pages and covers approximately six months of time in the surface world, including flashbacks here and there to a time before Nikki went to the Everneath. The book takes its time winding through the first four months, and then it tries to resolve all the reader’s questions in the last 150ish pages. In the final weeks before she faces return to the Everneath, Nikki Googles a lot of weird things (i.e., “how to escape the Tunnels”), finally elicits answers from some people in town, and goes on a tangential quest to find the significance of a silver bracelet. The book spends a long time building up to answers—so long, I think, that the answers don’t quite pay off in the end.
Two Star Reservations
Everneath gets a 2/5 from me because while the premise is original, the book avoids grappling with real emotional material that would have made it better. Nikki never deals with the true loss she’s suffered in the past, nor does she make significant attempts to rebuild family relationships or friendships that she claims to value. I think she might have two meaningful (or almost meaningful) conversations with her dad, one coffee chat with her best friend Jules, and one afternoon with her 10-year-old brother. I get that this is a romance story, so it’s fair for Nikki to be obsessed with Jack. But I wanted so much more for her—I wanted her to sit down and do at least some hard work of facing grief and trauma, of piecing together parts of her life that were as important as her relationship with Jack. Maybe I’m expecting too much of a genre book, but I’d have been happy if there were even 10 more pages of Nikki’s other relationships. Is that too much to ask…?
Fans of the Vampire Diaries and the Twilight Saga will probably enjoy Everneath, even though there are no vampires. The books have heroines with similar voices, attitudes, and backgrounds, and the plots involve temptation by dark and dangerous immortals.
Further character studies and DEFINITE spoilers. Read on at your own peril!
Nikki Beckett –
She spends most of the book deciding what she wants from her return to the surface world—does she just want to say goodbye to those she loves? try to get back to a normal life? or does she want to try and return to a life with Jack? I pitied Nikki for her general circumstances; first, her mother dies, then it seems like her boyfriend cheats on her, then she spends 100 years forgetting who she is, and now she only gets six months to fix everything before she becomes a human battery in the Everneath. But the pity I felt for Nikki never morphed into genuine concern—it was more like the kind of pity I’d feel for a stranger. Of course I would feel bad if someone—anyone—told me they were going through all these awful things. Nikki, however, never gave me the opportunity as a reader to become friends with her. At the end of the book, I still didn’t know much more about her than who her friends were, that she wanted to be normal, and that she could apparently learn speed knitting in two weeks (share your knit-fu with me!). Could she have existed as a developed character without her Jack obsession? Probably not.
Jack Caputo –
He has tousled brown hair, warm brown eyes, he’s a stud with a dating history and a cool last name, and he’s the youngest quarterback to star on the Park City High football team. He also writes sort of archaic notes to Nikki that constitute two words: Ever Yours. When Nikki goes to the Everneath, Jack does this Moping Bella Swan thing where he zones out, has random outbursts of emotion, and stops eating. Not sure if I buy that kind of behavior from a guy with a seemingly stable upbringing, but I guess that it could be plausible. Maybe.
My favorite Jack moment happened when Nikki went to his room to tell him about the Everneath. In the middle of the night, Jack just breaks out a deck of cards and starts dealing them to her while he waits for her story. That’s when I had an “Aha! That’s the sort of character he really is” moment. I wanted more Poker Jack and less Quarterback Jack.
Tangent: There are a lot of J names in this book. There’s Jack and Jules, and then there’s this guy Jake, who’s only mentioned once.
In a way, Cole was the most interesting character for me because he was about 50 percent jerk, 40 percent unpredictable, and 10 percent “Okay, maybe he deserves my sympathy.” He always wears a smug smile (and copious amounts of black), shows up uninvited to private conversations, and spills secrets that aren’t his to share. He sometimes claims to love Nikki, but he doesn’t show it much except when he comforts Nikki in the Shop ‘n Go store and when Nikki observes Cole’s expression upon seeing her with Jack. Outside of this, he’s usually busy instilling doubt in Nikki’s mind about… well, everything.
Cole surprised me most in the Christmas Dance chapter. When he sees Nikki dancing with Jack, Cole uses his powers to manipulate the emotions in the room, causing fights, arguments, and break-ups. Afterwards, Cole collapses and tells Nikki “Sometimes, when something hurts us, our hearts break a little . . . Our pain sort of spills out and onto anyone around us. We call it a cracked heart.” Up until that point, Cole had been meddling noncommittally in the affairs of Nikki and Jack. Reading this scene, I didn’t know whether he was faking jealousy hardcore or if he was actually telling the truth about his broken heart. There’s so much room for delicious ambiguity!
Poor Will. His name gets dropped in the beginning, and then about 50 pages later we learn that he’s Jack’s older brother. I liked Will a lot because he brought some comic relief to a serious story and played a big role towards the end, when Nikki and Jack try to steal Cole’s guitar. I do wonder how Will ended up swallowing Nikki’s story about the Everneath, though, but I guess he wasn’t important enough that we’ll ever find out 8( Come back, Will! Have a spin off! I’d totally read it.