Book Review: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

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Never 1

Publish Date: July 30, 2019

Play every game as if it is your last one. ” — Guy LaFleur

Never 2

Have you ever done something so bad, so shameful that you would do anything to keep it secret?

What if your worst enemy knew . . . and was determined to expose you?

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Angelica beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better.

When they’re alone, Angelica tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.

Never 3

This book had me engaged in the opening chapter and it continued to the very end. It all starts innocently enough with a friendly and fun neighborhood book club meeting and it goes rapidly downhill from that.

Angelica Roux (or Roux, as she calls herself) is a book club crasher and sh*% stirrer. She just moved into the ‘hood. This magnetic, sexy, beautiful interloper ends up leading a drinking game of “Never Have I Ever” with some of the book club stragglers. She exposes some of the deepest, darkest secrets in the neighborhood. But that’s only the beginning.

Roux saves her best game (blackmail and emotional torture) for Amy Whey, the book club host. Amy harbors a huge secret a la I Know What You Did Last Summer. Roux finds out Amy’s secret and has come to rock her quiet, loving, peaceful, and idyllic life and unearth a horrific past that has tortured her silently for many years. Will Amy play Roux’s game? How far will Amy go to protect herself and her family? Will it push her to do crazy and irrational things? I was riveted by these burning questions. How Amy reacts to Roux’s game is a test of her character and resourcefulness.

Roux reminds me of a Stephen King character – specifically, Leland Gaunt of Stephen King’s Needful Things –  with her dark, ominous, and manipulative ways. She is a villian in every sense of the word. She seeks out people’s vulnerabilities and secrets and uses them to her advantage. She slowly manipulates the entire neighborhood against each other. The only thing that makes her human is the fact that she is the mother of a teen son.

Amy is a smart, likeable character and at times she is an unreliable narrator. I rooted for her as she played Roux’s game. There were secrets uncovered along the way that made me gasp as the book twisted and turned. I didn’t know what to expect and it was really entertaining.

This book has some great quotes:

“We should have known better. We were grown-up women, so we packed our worsts away in hidden boxes. We were mothers, so we sank those boxes under jobs and mortgages and meal plans. Mothers have to sink those boxes deep.”

“Our hurts are heavy, and we let them sink. Every day they drift lower, settling in murky places where the light can’t reach. All I had to do was wait. My bad would fall down into the darkness again, because the bad things always do.”

“The past was set into its shape, permanent and unyielding. The present, however, could still undergo a sea change.”

“Every person alive is starved to confess their own dark moments, because what they really want, deep down, is to pay.”

This book is about secrets, marriage, family, friendship, eating disorders, stalking, neighbors, tragedy, motherhood, forgiveness, betrayal, love, and evil. I loved it. It’s fast paced, and has a wide range of characters that are likeable and others that I loved to hate. The ocean plays a supporting character because some of the characters are divers, and it offers a unique peek into the world of diving. The writing is descriptive and creates an ominous and foreboding atmosphere, which is something that I didn’t expect with this kind of novel. It also has some really great prose. The characters are well developed with plenty of backstory to understand their motivations. It was easy to read and I would have binge read it in one sitting if I had the chance. The ending is full of surprises.

This is my first read of Joshilyn Jackson’s and it won’t be my last. If you like books like Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier or The Lying Game by Ruth Ware, then this book is for you.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 5 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

 

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