Everbound - Brodi Ashton

Rarely can I say that a sequel surpasses its predecessor, but Brodi Ashton managed it with Everbound. Many of the complaints lodged at Everneath were absent here. Although Everbound had a bit of a slow start (the real adventure doesn't begin until a third of the way through), it was filled with action and fast-paced adventure. Nikki is also more driven and less mopy than she was in the first book. Although she has doubts about her ability to save Jack, she maintains hope to the very end, and refuses to give up. Nikki's father is also present in Everbound, and he takes an active interest in Nikki's life. In fact, he takes his concern for Nikki a bit too far at one point. Drugging your teenage daughter is not acceptable, and I thought Nikki's therapist's reaction was unrealistic. As a mandated reporter, she would have been required to report this to CPS and perhaps the police, or risk losing her license.

The love triangle continues to shine in this book as it did in the first. I still found Nikki and Jack's relationship to be very compelling and sweet. In Everbound we get to see some of Jack's flaws, which rounded his character out a bit, but he remains firmly in the "good guy" camp. I knew that Nikki and Cole's relationship would be further explored in this novel and I had a lot of trepidation about it, but Ashton handled it superbly. Nikki's feelings for Cole develop slowly and organically, without an over reliance on their soul mate-like connection. Her feelings build over time after shared experiences and heartfelt conversations. Despite their history, it was believable that Nikki would come to care for and trust Cole. Even more surprising, Ashton manages to develop their relationship while still being true to Cole's character.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed Everbound, it was not without its flaws. Often times the resolution to a conflict would be a little too convenient, which was also one of the issues I had with Everneath. In one example, a random city-wide blackout occurs just when Nikki and company need to escape. Nikki's memories also have a bit of a deus ex machine quality to them. In the Everneath they can literally turn into anything, much like Glory in Boundless. Other than the convenience factor, there were also some minor issues with the setting in the flashbacks. Most if not all take place while Nikki is a freshmen in high school yet she owns and drives a car, although she's only fifteen and in Utah a teenager can't get their license until their sixteen. Also, Nikki was taking chemistry her freshmen year (as did all the characters mentioned), a class which is typically taken during sophomore or junior year because geometry is a required for the course (yes, I looked it up and this is true in Utah). Again, these are minor issues but they did take me out of the story.

I was prepared to give Everbound a solid four stars, but the ending earned this book another half-star. I'm not easily surprised by plot twists, particularly in YA novels (I saw the twists in Everneath coming many chapters before they were revealed), but I did not predict the end of Everbound. Not only was the twist surprising but it was also very fitting, both in terms of plot and characterization.

I would recommend this book and series without any reservations. I can't wait to read the final book in the trilogy.