Back around the time you played “Spin the Bottle,” you may have played a little game called “Never Have I Ever.” It’s simple, really. You tell the group your deepest, darkest secret with the disclaimer, “Never have I ever…” and then the fun begins.
Except it is seldom fun.
Remember Benjamin Franklin’s famous words, “Three may keep a secret if two are dead.”
So when I found out one of my favorite authors had a new book out by the same title as the game, I knew I had to read it.
Title is linked to Amazon and there are no spoilers ahead:
NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson. Harper Collins Publishers, New York. July 31, 2019. 357 pages.
From the back cover:
Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her infant son. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.
Sultry and magnetic, Roux 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 coolly explains exactly what it will cost to keep Amy’s sins private, but Amy cannot give her what she wants. To protect her family and the life she’s built, Amy must try to beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets.
Yes, something wicked this way comes…
Given my experience with book clubs, I’m not surprised evil shows up for a meeting. Maybe that’s why I picked this book up in the first place.
Well, that and the fact that I’ve read many of Joshilyn Jackson’s other titles and loved her southern settings and characterization. Truly, this woman writes some damn humorous and charming women’s lit.
But I knew that wasn’t the Jackson I was getting with Never Have I Ever going in.
This is Jackson’s first thriller. A complete departure from her usual books.
The story is narrated by Amy, a confident, athletic scuba diving instructor, successful mother/stepmother/wife/best friend and decent, all-around human being.
It is also narrated by teenage Amy, an overweight, somewhat desperate high school girl who makes a mistake not atypical of teens but fraught with deadly consequences.
I enjoyed the chapters written from the teenager’s point-of-view. Author Jackson could have easily penned a young-adult novel using these characters and the inciting incident.
Instead, she placed them approximately fifteen years into the future and set them loose on small-town Florida.
I also enjoyed the story as narrated by adult Amy who takes us on a roller coaster of suspense served up with the wholesome Wonder Bread sandwich of suburban domestic life.
Roux (pronounced Roo) is an antagonist who is as icy cool as she is red-hot diabolical. She’s a Terminator in a flowing hippie dress.
Clearly, Amy is in for the fight of her life.
Unfortunately, the plot was, at times, too contrived.
Some of the events and character connections were just too unbelievable.
A few of these snapped me out of the reader’s agreement to suspend her disbelief–I mean, one can only overlook so much coincidence.
And then there was the ending. Exciting? Yes, there was plenty of suspense. I kept turning pages.
But I felt like I needed a shower after closing the book.
FYI: Anyone who gets the least bit squeamish about sex or language should skip this title.
At any rate, this is not my favorite Joshilyn Jackson book. I really hope she goes back to humorous, southern-fried women’s lit.
Still, anyone who digs thrillers with female leads will likely enjoy Never Have I Ever.
Foxy Rating Scale – Three out of five foxes