on Feb 11, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
It was the most important day of her life, and for 21-year-old Isla Edison, graduating from college with a useless degree in vocal performance was all part of her master plan. Dying in a car accident only hours later wasn't part of that plan. Yet there she was, standing over her own lifeless body and panicking about ruining the truck her parents had bought as a graduation present. Talk about a bad way to repay them.
If coming to terms with the hereafter wasn’t enough to deal with, Isla suddenly finds herself stuck with Hayden, a gorgeous Brit with a bad attitude and a penchant for throwing her off cliffs to keep her in line. Worst of all, Hayden is her Guide, and until she completes six impossible and totally random tasks to reach her mysterious Destination, she's stuck with him. Isla's major problem, though, is that she doesn't know what reaching her Destination actually entails, and soon the mystery surrounding her new afterlife seems more ominous than any purgatory she could possibly imagine. Now Isla must decide if she'll trust her dark and brooding Guide despite his "bad boy" act, or if she'll risk failing her tasks and facing the unknown alone.
If it weren’t for my friend Karolina buying me a copy of Under Zenith for my birthday, I probably never would’ve picked it up. It didn’t sound enticing enough. Having said that, I’m glad I was proven wrong – I actually really liked the story and I thought it was very entertaining. Not something you put down easily.
When 21-year-old Isla Edison receives a car from her parents as a graduation present, she doesn’t expect to wreck the thing in an accident twenty minutes later. What she expects even less is being thrown into a between-world, a sort of Purgatory, where she has to perform multiple tasks in order to reach her Destination. What is her Destination? No idea. Even less helpful is her moody Guide Hayden; armed with a sexy British accent, he seems likeable at first, but he’ll quickly make her think otherwise. Hayden doesn’t know anything other than the fact that he is her Guide and has to help her finish these tasks, but he has a bit of an unorthodox approach.
I thought the premise was very original; it wasn’t something I had read before. Each task signified a different skill: agility, memory, things like that. While I didn’t always see the logic behind each task, it was still entertaining to get through. They’re very unusual situations, to say the least, and it was interesting to see what the author was going to do with those.
In the beginning, Isla chooses to rely on her Guide for help, asking him a lot of questions, but she quickly realises that’s a big mistake. Hayden is a grumpy and snarky man, whose sarcastic responses are meant to make Isla feel dumb. Sure, he might have a sexy accent, and he might look good, but he’s very unpleasant to be around, and he’ll make sure Isla knows that he finds her just as unpleasant. Honestly, their banter back and forth was divine – no pun intended. It added some comic relief to an otherwise heavy topic. They were really great together, and it was nice to see them slowly warming up to each other.
Isla was a good main character. She wasn’t the most exciting or the most badass, but I liked that she wasn’t a pushover. She didn’t let herself be fazed by Hayden’s snark and kept asking all her questions. I’d have a lot of questions too if I suddenly died and found myself in the afterlife, and it must be frustrating not to get any answers. It was also interesting to see how she dealt with the idea of death. I smiled when she didn’t worry so much about dying – she felt more guilty about wrecking the car and giving her parents more things to pay for. It was obvious that she cared a lot about her family, which was really cute. And while she complained about the arduous tasks, she did them anyway, and I admire her for that.
Under Zenith became a little more personal for me when Isla mentioned her Dutch roots. I especially loved her mentioning stroopwafels – they are the best, and if you’ve never eaten stroopwafels, you need to.
I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. It was ingenious, no doubt. To say I didn’t see it coming is an understatement. We get an explanation for all the weird tasks. View Spoiler »I really liked the explanation of a new and experimental medical treatment, where the doctor can enter Isla’s brain and help her return to the world of the living; that all the different tasks represented a specific skillset in Isla’s brain; and that she had to master all those skills in order to regain full control over her body. That was pretty cool. « Hide Spoiler However, I think I would’ve liked it better if View Spoiler »Isla had just died. Sure, I get the appeal of a happy ending, but I had already accepted that Isla was dead. Hell, Isla had accepted that she was dead. It would’ve been nice to see her pass and find peace, and somehow find a way for her and Hayden to be together. « Hide Spoiler I was also pretty bummed about View Spoiler »Hayden’s sudden personality change. I liked Hayden as the snarky studmuffin that he was. I loved their bickering, and I was sad to see that he was, well, pretty much perfect.
« Hide Spoiler
I really enjoyed reading Under Zenith. Pick it up if you want something a little more unusual. See if you can resist unlikeable Hayden with his undoubtable charm. Think about if you would be able to pass all the tests. And can you predict the ending?