In Never Have I Ever, Joshilyn Jackson turns the iconic party game into a method for harassment. While the whole neighborhood will eventually end up in turmoil, it is Amy Whey who might just have the most to lose.
It all starts when the neighborhood’s newest resident, Angelica Roux, attends the regular book club meeting held by a number of the local women. It’s true that their doors have always been open to an expanding membership, but that was because there was never anyone like Roux (as she prefers to be called) interested before. After derailing the discussion and too much alcohol consumption, Roux suggests playing a version of “never have I ever” in which each person will name the worst thing they did today, this week, and ever.
Amy Whey finesses her way through the game without being truthful, but it seems that Roux knows Amy’s deepest, darkest secret. Something that happened long ago and is so bad that she has never spoken of it again. And Roux is not about to let the truth go un-avenged – or is her motivation something completely different?
Now, in domestic suspense, this secret could be any number of things – most of them highly improbably and maybe even ridiculous outside the realm of fiction. Fortunately, Joshilyn Jackson mitigates the absurdity by making the secret something that seems completely plausible – albeit, not revolutionary. Jackson does compound the main secret with some related sub-secrets that up the ante on risk, danger, and retribution.
As readers might expect, the other neighborhood women also have secrets complicated by a hierarchy of confidants among the unstable group. Their tangled relationships further facilitate some nice reveals throughout the novel and set in motion the actions that lead directly to the final confrontations.
Joshilyn Jackson certainly knows how to craft compelling characters and then bring them to life on the page in subtle but concrete ways. The star creation here is Angelica Roux. This complex character will live in reader’s memories long after the novel is over. This is not to say that the other women are dull; that is most definitely not the case. It’s just that there is something magical about a memorable villain.
A major part of Amy’s characterization comes from her beloved hobby – scuba diving. The scenes that take place under the water burst to life as readers get a feel for what that must be like. Of course, Joshilyn Jackson uses this to maximum effect by elevating its importance within the plot.
All in all, Never Have I Ever is a great summer novel. The reading flows with ease, the plot is addictive, and the climax more than satisfies.
Buy Links: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.
This sounds like a fun read.
It is light enough to be enjoyed on a summer’s afternoon.
I also scored an ARC of Jackson’s latest (free at my local Indie bookstore with another purchase). I have loved every other book by this author. “Never Have I Ever” is a departure from her other literary fiction titles. Intriguing book that reminds me of Laura Lippman. Thanks for a great review, Kris!
Thanks Beth. Yes, this isn’t typical Jackson, but very enjoyable.