I’ll be honest, the summary and the cover blurbs from Ally Condi and Becca Fitzpatrick didn’t exactly inspire the highest confidence in me that Everneath would be to my liking. I feared it would be another love triangle with the bad guy that the heroine is obviously going to choose in the end, but there’s pages upon pages of her going over it and not knowing who she wants. Plus, all the retellings of the Persephone myth in the YA genre have been less than savoury for me. I expected the usual YA fare. I was wrong. Everneath honestly did what I was told Daughter of Smoke & Bone did--which is subverting current YA tropes and trends, and Daughter of Smoke & Bone did that, to be sure--and did it a lot better, in my opinion. Most of Nikki’s feelings for Cole, the jerk with the grey morals, were due to the process they went through, not because she truly loves him in any way. In fact for most of the novel she’s pretty well disgusted and short with him and just wants him out of her life for good. She stands up to him quite a few times, much to my joy, and makes it very clear she doesn’t love him. This is so refreshing to see, and also to see a gross guy being treated for what he actually is--a gross guy. In contrast, Jack, Nikki’s main love interest, is awesome. He’s not without his issues sometimes--giving “permission” to other football players to date Nikki before they got together, like she’s some kind of property--but on the whole he was a respectable, likable love interest. He actually cares about Nikki and is trying to reach out to her, but they’re both sort of lost as to how to get things right again after so much has happened. I did sort of roll my eyes at the whole “he used to sleep around and date a lot but now he’s all about YOU!” thing, but it was pretty understated a lot of the time so I could ignore it rather easily. Their story was sweet and nice to read, and I was glad Jack was Nikki’s clear choice. At times I wish the female characters had been developed more; you’ve got the stereotypical cheerleader character, who thankfully doesn’t appear all that much, but the times she did I just sort of cringed. Ashton can clearly write better characters than that, so why did she skimp out on that particular one? I also wish Nikki had spent more time trying to get back together with her best friend, Jules, but maybe that’s something that will be explored in the sequel. Really, the main relationship in the book is the Cole/Nikki/Jack relationship, and it’s with those two characters that take up the most time. Normally this would bother me, but they’re both handled so well that I was steadily interested throughout the novel by just that relationship. I do hope Ashton explores Nikki’s family a little more in the sequel, but the scenes we got of them here are sweet and heartbreaking, but also contain a little ray of hope. For a main character, I honestly loved Nikki. She’s a proactive main lead, making things happen instead of reacting to things happening. She has her flaws and doubts but also her strengths, and she’s a well rounded character. She grows and learns and makes mistakes, but at her heart she’s a good person just trying to do the best she can with what she’s been left with. There were times when I wanted to smack my forehead at her stupidity, but she’s far from a TSTL heroine. She’s an admirable heroine. At times I felt the pacing was maybe a little too fast, but in hindsight it’s a nice effect--it gives the feeling that the six months are passing quickly, and when you know something like the Everneath is waiting for you again, time would feel like it’s going by too fast. Everneath is most definitely a character driven novel, though, instead of a plot driven novel, and that may not be to some readers liking. The mythology and the twists done on all the classic Greek myths were well done and well thought out, and I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing more of the world in the sequel. I did honestly call some of the twists pages before the characters did, and while that normally irritates me, it wasn’t enough to completely ruin the novel for me. There’s too much good here for it to have done that, really. I’m glad I gave Everneath a chance; it proved me wrong on all of my expectations and gave me a worthy retelling of the Persephone myth. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel, though I am of the opinion that it stands alone fine. I’m sure Ashton will deliver something spectacular, though.