Review: ‘Never Have I Ever’ by Joshilyn Jackson ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Happy Kindle Publication Day to Joshilyn Jackson and her electrifying new novel.

SYNOPSIS:

It starts as a game at book group one night. Never Have I Ever..done something I shouldn’t.

But Amy Whey has done something she shouldn’t. And Roux, the glamorous newcomer to Amy’s suburban neighbourhood, knows exactly what that is.

Roux promises she’ll go away. She will take herself and her son, who is already growing dangerously close to Amy’s teenage stepdaughter, and she will go. If Amy plays by her rules. 

But Amy isn’t prepared to lose everything she’s built. She’s going to fight back, and in this escalating game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner. 

REVIEW:

In Pensacola, Florida, a group of ordinary suburban housewives are holding at their monthly book group when a mysterious stranger knocks on the door. She wants to join their group. Before the end of the night she’s charmed almost everyone and overtaken the group, declaring the book talk boring and instead plies them with alcohol and gets them to play her own version of Never Have I Ever. But these embarrassing, salacious secrets aren’t just a bit of fun. They’re the mystery woman’s ammunition for a much more dangerous game. And now she has secrets that could explode many people’s lives into a million pieces…

“She smiled, and I had no premonition as I smiled back. She didn’t look like my own destruction to me.” 

Amy Whey loves her life. It’s uncomplicated and unremarkable, which is just how she wants it. She knows how damaging and dangerous the extraordinary can be and she’s spent too long burying her painful past to allow anything to threaten what she has. She’s married to Davis and they live with his daughter Maddy and their baby boy, Oliver. Amy is a loyal friend and is fiercely protective of those she loves. But underneath the calm exterior is layers of guilt and a woman teetering on the edge, scared that her darkest secrets will be exposed. 

Angelica Roux is glamorous, sexy, bewitching, hypnotic, wild and charming. This wolf in sheep’s clothing soon takes over the book group with copious amounts of alcohol and a seemingly innocent game of Never Have I Ever. But underneath the shiny and chipper exterior is a cold, calculating, manipulative, and greedy woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.  

And so begins a deadly game of cat and mouse that can have only one winner and could cost the loser everything, maybe even their life…

“Roux had begun this as a game. She’d told me not to play. But I already was. I had tol. More than that. I had to win.”

Wow! This book was utterly compelling. Steeped in layer upon layer of drama, intrigue and suspense, this book had me on the edge of the seat.. Past narratives are used to tease us with the events that Amy is so terrified of being revealed as she races against the clock to beat Roux at her game and they hyped up the mystery and tension, leaving more questions I was desperate to know the answer to while also helping to slowly untangle the clues. 

“I did not know I could lead us to a thing so big, so mean, something we can never undo or remove, that will echo in my life, in all our lives, forever.”

While being entertaining this book also makes you think as it asks the question how far would you go to protect your secrets and the life you love? It’s also a book about how every little choice we make can have far-reaching, and sometimes disastrous, consequences, and how your whole life can change in a single moment. 

Part of the brilliance of this book is how similar the Amy and Roux are despite their different roles in the story. Both characters were well written and Roux is a fantastic antagonist. She’s easy to despise but is also fun to read and you can understand why so many people are taken in by her. While I never wavered in Roux being the bad guy, there are times when  you aren’t sure if Amy is the good guy or the bad guy as she’s complex and the more we learn about her the harder it to only see her as an innocent victim. But none of this changed my allegiance. I was team Amy all the way. 

“She’d cracked open the past. I could feel it leaking into my bloodstream, spreading like a toxin through me.”

This was my first read by this author, but it won’t be my last. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this book and with that there is always the worry it won’t live up to expectations. This one did. Spectacularly written, fast-paced, and  full of intricate twists and turns, with one in particular that I’m still trying to recover from the shock of. The author masterfully weaves the pieces of the puzzle together and delivers a nail-biting finale that I was so desperate to get to I stayed up long into the night. 

The book itself gives a great way to describe itself: a book with teeth. Ironically it is exactly the kind of book that Amy and Roux like to read. So if you love books with teeth, mysteries that keep you guessing and psychological thrillers that have you on tenterhooks, then Never Have I Ever is the book for you.

Thank you to NetGalley, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC and Joshilyn Jackson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Kindle version out July 30th

Hardcover out August 8th.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Joshilyn Jackson lives near Decatur, Georgia with her husband and their two children. For the past six years she has taught creative writing and literature courses for Georgia’s maximum security facility for women. Through their education-in-prison and re-entry programmes, Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build liveable lives. She’s also an award winning audiobook narrator, performing most of her own work as well as other authors including Lydia Nelzer and Maybeth Mayhew Whalen.

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