Also appears on The Screaming Nitpicker. I received my copy of the novel from the publisher for review.Going into Underworld, the second book of Cabot's Abandon trilogy, I had my fingers crossed so tightly that it hurt. Would I like it more than Abandon, which underwhelmed me? Would it be just as disappointing or even worse? I was prepared for the best and the worst and I ended up feeling as similarly satisfied yet slightly disappointed with the second book as I felt with the first.I did see improvement on some of the points I disliked Abandon for. The repetition of evil tassels and the phrase "check yourself before you wreck yourself" disappeared. Pierce's cousin Alex emerged as a dark horse sort of character I didn't expect to love but did anyway. He was flat-out wrong, but the complexity he demonstrated when Pierce confronted him invested me more in his character with that one scene than two books have invested me in Pierce's struggles. A more present plot gave Underworld a greater direction and purpose than I remember from the first book.My past experience with Cabot's Mediator series, an enduring favorite of mine, has shown me that she knows how to write a fun heroine with a solid head on her shoulders. That may be why I find Pierce more disappointing as a main character. She is generally more introverted and I like it, but she tends to be a blind dreamer too, acting without thinking and ignoring what is plainly there.Pierce's personality type kept Cabot's usual humor out of Abandon, but I saw more of it shining through this time. I haven't been able to check it against the final copy of the book, but this quote was so winning that I couldn't resist sharing it:"Oh, no." My heart filling with dread, I took the paper from Mr. Smith's hands. "Couldn't they have found a better picture of me?"Mr. Smith looked at me sharply. "Miss Oliviera," he said, his gray eyebrows lowered. "I realize it's all the rage with you young people today to toss off flippant one-liners so you can get your own reality television shows. But I highly doubt MTV will be coming down to Isla Huesos to film you in the Underworld. So that can't be all you have to say about this." (ARC p. 102) Unfortunately, each one of those great moments in writing seems to be followed by at least two descriptions that come with cringeworthy mental images. As much as Pierce loved it, a man's muscles pumping up to the size of grapefruits as he rips apart chains with his bare hands doesn't seem attractive to me.Pierce and John's relationship troubles me--no, disturbs me. It's a more powerful and accurate word choice. I see exactly one quality in him she could plausibly like: how he took her suggestions for the Underworld and put a few of them in practice. That is something I thought was fantastic. Otherwise, I don't see why she loves him so much and forgives his behavior (lying, clearly evident violence streak, secret-keeping) so easily. In a step above some more problematic YA novels, John often admits that what he does is wrong and Pierce recognizes it as wrong. Her forgiving almost all of it or pretending an issue is a non-issue takes it back down that step, but I suppose it's progress. Better one forward and one back than two steps back.My newfound fondness for Alex and genuine curiosity is sure to bring me and other readers back for Awaken, the final book of the trilogy. Readers who fell in love with Abandon will surely love this installment too, but figuring out whether or not critics of the first book will enjoy Underworld is a little more difficult. Of the multiple Hades/Persephone retellings in bookstores at the moment, this is definitely my preferred series.---So I flipped my shit when the publisher sent me an email last week telling me they would send me a copy of Underworld as per my request, and I flipped it again when the ARC showed up in the mailbox today. I can be excitable at times and have a six-step routine for unflipping my shit. All's good, right?Then I got to a letter Meg Cabot wrote that came with the ARC. Among other things about the book itself, she expresses appreciation for book blogs and the people behind them.I found the letter! If you care to see it, just press the spoiler button: Gentle Reader,With this letter, you are cordially invited to read this exclusive advanced copy of Underworld, the second installment of my newest YA series, Abandon.Scared? I don't blame you. Few souls have been brave enough to enter the realm of the dead and lived to tell about it.But as a fellow book lover, I feel as if I know you. You toil long hours to make sure that good books get into the hands of readers who'll appreciate them. That leads me to believe that you might be exactly the kind of person who has the heart for a journey like this one.These days it's easier to spot fellow book lovers than it used to be. I know it might be hard to believe, but the Internet didn't exist back when I was a kid (at least not in my house). To find good books, I had to do to the local library, where there were wonderful librarians to guide me (although the were very strict on the no food policy).I still adore my local library and librarian, but book review blogs are like having a community of smart, interesting people with whom you can talk about books in your own home (with all the snacks you can eat)! That's why I always feature book blogger reviews, of both my books and those of other authors, on www.megcabot.com.And that's also why I hope you'll accept my invitation to visit the Underworld, and stay a while to explore its dark passageways and quirky residents. Maybe you'll even catch sight of John, its ruler, and Pierce, its heroine. Don't worry about getting lost down there... Spring (and the official May 8 release of Underworld) is just around the corner.Thank you so much for everything you do, and happy reading. But remember Pierce's warning: whatever else you do, don't blink.Meg CabotAnd now I have to unflip my shit all over again, one step at a time. I don't even mind. I knew there was a good reason I loved Meg Cabot!