• Alisa Williams

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson



I've been a huge fan of Joshilyn Jackson ever since I got to hear her speak at the Festival of Faith & Writing in 2010. That was my first festival, and I'd never read one of her books before but she was so funny that I picked one up right afterward and have been reading her books ever since!


Never Have I Ever is Jackon's latest and like all her books, there's a strong female lead, tons of wit and snark, and there's a twist that I just did not see coming.


Main character Amy Whey is living a #blessed life from all outward appearances. She has a gorgeous house in an upper-middle class neighborhood. She has a loving, if not a little boring, husband. She's a stay-at-home mom to her baby boy and has a great relationship with her teenage stepdaughter whom she adores. She's an accomplished diving instructor, and she helps run a book club with her best friend, the bubbly and rather tightly wound, Charlotte.

But what none of her neighbors know is that Amy's past is far from idyllic. She struggles with overeating and extreme dieting. She's estranged from her family. And she harbors a dark secret that only she and one other person in the world know. Or so she thought.


When the enigmatic and intoxicating Roux and her teenage son show up in the neighborhood, renting the eyesore Airbnb at the end of the street, Amy doesn't think much of it. She'll get over there with some welcome cookies eventually. But Roux beats her to it, showing up unexpectedly at book club one night. And Roux's plans don't involve gossiping over Charlotte's chosen read. Instead, Roux proposes her remixed version of the drinking game "Never Have I Ever," and in the aftermath of what's revealed, the neighborhood is turned upside down and Amy's secret just might be exposed.


Just what lengths will Amy go to keep the past dead and buried?


Jackson goes to some dark places in her books, dealing with abuse, rape, racism, body issues, and the ways secrets destroy, and this book is no exception, delving deep into several of those topics. I've always loved how Jackson can so starkly write to some of the worst aspects of human nature, while still leaving us feeling hopeful and optimistic at the end. It's truly a gift.


Never Have I Ever is a page-turner just like all her others. I could not put it down. The twist at the end was way darker than I expected. I feel like this book needs a trigger warning, but how you'd do that without spoiling the twist (which I'm not inclined to do), I have no idea.


I finished reading this one a few weeks ago, and the story has definitely stuck with me. As with all Jackson's books, this will be one I return to again, looking for all the clues I missed the first time around.


This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.

Alisa Williams is the managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org. She blogs at alisawilliamswrites.com, tweets at @AWWritesStories, and bookstagrams at @AllyWritesStories.

Photo by Alisa Williams.

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