Editorial note: I received a copy of Never Have I Ever in exchange for a review.
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson is a wild story of cat-and-mouse that is full of surprises.
The year of 2019 is when I finally embraced thrillers. Prior to this year, I didn’t read many in the genre. I got burned on some not great ones in the past and just didn’t think it was for me. But this year has shown me that it’s an entertaining and, yes, thrilling genre. And by far one of the best I’ve read this year is Never Have I Ever. First, the synopsis:
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. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. 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, Roux 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. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.
When they’re alone, Roux 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.
To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.
A Diabolical Game
I’m sure most of you have played the game, Never Have I Ever! And while a fun and random game, I have to say I’m pretty happy it never went the way it does in this read. But the game in this story goes beyond just a night of drinking. It also shows that you can try to outrun your past but it always finds a way to catch up with you.
I really thought I knew where this story was going. I thought I called it on key plot points. I was completely wrong. As I’m slowly working my ways through thrillers, I do feel some fall into a formula. Well, Never Have I Ever definitely does not follow any kind of formula and is truly very original and shocking—even up until the end. Whew, that ending!
The characters are all written very well—especially Amy. We read the story from her first-person perspective and are there every step of the way in this unique journey. Reading about her past is hard and felt realistic. Sometimes these stories about a dark past are really random AF but this one is something that you see happen on the news. Her battle with Roux is really entertaining and even comedic at some parts. And Amy starts to wonder if they have more in common than she would like to admit.
Final thoughts: an entertaining ride with a complex character in the center of the game.
Check out my book club questions here.