Saturday, November 09, 2019

Fiction Review: Never Have I Ever

For years, I have been hearing other readers rave about Joshilyn Jackson's novels but hadn't yet read one. So, I jumped at the chance to listen to her latest, Never Have I Ever, on audio last month. It starts out as a quiet suburban drama and slowly builds to a tense suspense story with lots of unexpected twists.

Amy is happy, living in a nice suburb in Pensacola, Florida, with her husband, Davis; his teen daughter, Maddy; and their baby, Oliver. It's a satisfying existence, with her best friend, Charlotte, living down the street. Tonight, Amy is hosting Charlotte's book group at her house. They have a big crowd, with 20 of their mom neighbors gathered. Usually, the group members each have a glass of wine, discuss a classic, and head home pretty early, but tonight is different. A new neighbor, Angelica Roux ("call me Roux"), joins them ... and quickly takes over. Roux is not like the other moms. She's sexy and enigmatic, slinking around the room and insinuating herself in these strange women's lives effortlessly. She pours drinks--stiff drinks--until the moms are all tipsy (and some well past that). Then she introduces a game, all thoughts of book discussion gone. She says it's her own version of Never Have I Ever and goes around the room, asking each woman to share the worst thing they did yesterday, last month, and in their whole lives. Charlotte is upset at Roux's taking over her event, and Amy is furious. She has no intention of playing Roux's game or of disclosing the worst thing she's ever done. After that first night, Roux zeroes in on Amy, hinting that she knows her secret. Amy tries to go on with normal life--caring for Maddy and Oliver and working as a dive instructor--but inside, she is roiling with emotions she hasn't felt in years, thinking back to events that occurred when she was just a teenager.

That's just the first chapter or two! This story unfolds slowly, with building tension, and heads off in directions I never saw coming. The quiet suburban neighborhood turns into a hot bed of blackmail, accusations, extortion, and so much more. Jackson narrates her own audios, which I didn't realize until I finished it. She does an excellent job of telling the story from Amy's perspective. Amy's past and Roux's true motives only gradually come to light, with delightfully twisty suspense and plenty of surprises. It's a wholly unique and engrossing thriller that kept me rapt from beginning to end. I understand this was Jackson's first thriller, but I enjoyed her writing style and look forward to reading more of her popular novels.

352 pages, William Morrow

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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Listen to a sample of the audio book, which was excellent, or download it from Audible. The author is narrating, and the sample is from an early chapter, a week or so after that disastrous book group meeting.


You can purchase Never Have I Ever from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
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Or you can order Never Have I Ever from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

2 comments:

  1. This has been getting a lot of good press on people's blogs, but I feel like I overdid the thrillers over the past couple of years and have needed a break. I'll add it to my list to read when I am ready for thrillers again.

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    1. As you know, I just had my own little Thriller/Mystery Fest! ha ha I don't read many thrillers anymore, so I really enjoy my 2 months of reading mystery/suspense/thriller in the fall!

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