Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
HarperCollins: 7/30/19
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062855312

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson is a very highly recommended compulsively readable domestic thriller that will grab all of your attention and hold you hostage until the end. One of the best books of the year!

Amy Whey had a troubled past but is now living a content, ordinary suburban life. She is married to Davis, and loves her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, Maddie, and their infant son, Oliver.  Amy teaches diving lessons, which is how her best friend, Charlotte originally introduced her to Maddie and Davis. Now she and Charlotte are neighbors and she helps Char run their book club. When a new neighbor from a rental house who calls herself Roux shows up at the club, Roux immediately takes charge of the book club and sets it careening off into a dangerous direction.

Roux keeps the women drinking, talking, and then starts a dangerous game of "Never have I ever." Many of the members, including Char leave early but some women stay and overshare to Roux. Amy ends up ordering Roux to leave her house, because she recognizes the dangerous game this woman is playing. Roux is dangerous and now she knows a secret from Amy's past that she is threatening to share if Amy doesn't give her a large sum of money. Everything isn't quite as cut and dried as Roux thinks. She may be threatening Amy, but Amy is not going down without a fight and that means playing a dangerous game of her own.

Warning: Once you start reading Never Have I Ever you will lose sleep and even, briefly, consider taking a sick day from work. It is that good. This is a twisty dark tale of evil, deception, blackmail, temptation, family, love, shrewdness, friendship, and strategy. If Amy wants to win this game, it means she needs to undertake her own risky game against a professional extortionist. Roux thinks she is an easy mark, but she has underestimated Amy.

I'm a huge fan of Jackson's writing. She's talented, clever, funny, smart, and writes memorable character-driven fiction. Almost every book she writes becomes my favorite of her novels, and now Never Have I Ever is my favorite. The writing and the plot are absolutely perfectly paced and executed. I was totally engrossed in this compelling thriller and, as each new twist surprised me, couldn't pull myself away from reading. And I guessed not a twist or move in this story.

Amy is a wonderful character. She has made mistakes in her life and has been through some hard circumstances. She is clever and shrewd at times, but she is also goodhearted and supportive. She has endured her own hard times and has overcome them while trying to do the right thing and keeping some things to herself. She is a character that you will support and wish the best for in spite of her flaws. Roux will make your blood pressure rise right from the start when she comes to the book club and takes over with her little games.

Never Have I Ever has it all: exciting plot, great writing, unexpected twists, and memorable characters. It is the perfect summer read - or fall, or winter, or spring...

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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