A lovely retelling of the Persephone myth, author Brodi Ashton puts her own modern spin on the story of the young, innocent goddess who becomes Queen of the Underworld. In Ashton’s re-imagined myth, the Underworld is known as the Everneath – home of the immortal Everliving – which thrives on human emotional energy. After experiencing an extreme amount of heartbreak in a short span of time, seventeen-year-old Nikki Beckett turns to the one person who promises to take all her pain away – Cole, an Everliving. Little does she know much much her decision, made in the heat of an emotional moment, will cost her. After surviving a century of the “Feed” in the Everneath, and for the most part mentally intact, Nikki refuses Cole’s offer to remain with him and become an Everliving. She is repulsed by the idea of subjecting someone else to the Feed ,preying upon their emotions and destroying who they are piece by piece. Instead, she chooses to return home to her family and to Jack – the boy whose face kept her from losing herself all those years. However, her return is not permanent. The shades of Everneath have marked Nikki as their own, and her return to the Surface will only last six months before the shades claim her forever. Coming to grips with her inescapable fate, Nikki resolves to make the most of her time and to mend ties with her friends and family. If she’s leaving, she’s determined to do it on her own terms.Nikki is such a broken character at the beginning of this book. Deprived of deeper emotions, alienated from her friends and family, her hardships and string of damaged relationships is ultimately her fault for choosing the Everneath over working through her issues. However, I couldn’t help but be completely sympathetic. How could she have known at sixteen that the consequences would be so far-reaching? She couldn’t have. Yet she takes complete responsibility for her actions without complaint and I found that admirable. Irrevocably changed by her experiences in the Everneath, Nikki is older, wiser, humble, more sensitive to the feelings of others and better understands the permanence of a rash decision. She knows she must leave her loved ones again, that her fate is unchangeable, but she’s determined to give her friends and family the space, the time and the healing they need to forgive her initial abandonment. Most importantly she hopes to give them a little more closure this time – to let them know how much she loves them – before her time on the surface is up.The relationship between Jack & Nikki is really the crux of this novel. Their romance is built on years of close friendship and shared experiences, and finally took a romantic turn several months before Nikki is taken to Everneath. It’s not hard to see why Nikki fell for Jack. Easy-going, friendly, adorably flirtatious, even-minded and devastatingly handsome (so says Nikki), he is an optimistic and charismatic guy who people are drawn to. Their relationship is wonderfully developed and Ashton has done an excellent job of making their romance an organic progression from their already solid friendship to a passionate, genuine love. Nikki & Jack have such a wonderful contentment and familiarity with each other that’s refreshing to read. One of the things I loved most about Everneath was that Ashton switched between the past and the present, showing us Jack & Nikki as they are now, but also what they were like together before the Everneath. Between the heartache of the present and the romance of the past, Ashton paints the reader a lovely and heartbreaking picture of Jack & Nikki’s love, just how much they’ve lost… and how much they could stand to lose again.Determined to keep them apart for reasons of his own is Cole. Characters who constantly live in the moral gray, or who even seem to have an absence of morality fascinate me. Cole fascinates me. An immortal, Cole does what he does to survive, completely oblivious or perhaps consciously indifferent to the human lives he rips apart in the process. After meeting Nikki several months before he steals her away he becomes fixated on her, and when he learns that she’s survived the Feed (what a winner, right?) he becomes obsessed with making her his for all eternity. Cole is such a wonderful enigma, his motivations and endgame a bit of a mystery. At times he seems almost likeable and incredibly human, and yet at others, dangerous and predatory. Over his character looms the constant, ever-burning question: does he genuinely care for Nikki? Can he really, truly love? Or for him, is it about control, about winning?Though Everneath is an extremely well done retelling of Persephone myth and though I love the main characters and their relationships, sadly I didn’t find the story itself to be anything mind-blowing or incredibly original. In particular, several of the main plot points are almost completely identical to another book I’ve read this year, Lisa Mangum’s The Hourglass Door, which is also a book about immortal beings who feed on the emotional energy of humans. It’s uncanny how similar they are. Granted, the larger story of both books are completely different, but I just couldn’t get over the similarities enough to fall completely head over heels with Everneath.Overall, Everneath is an enjoyable retelling of a beloved myth and a heartwarming, heartbreaking tale of forgiveness and the lengths to which one will go for love.