Desert Isle Keeper
Never Have I Ever
There are certain authors whose work I embrace without even reading the synopsis, and Joshilyn Jackson falls into that category for me. Her deeply moving, lyrical stories set in the American south are among my favorite books of all time, and so, when I learned she had written her very first psychological thriller, I was beyond excited to try it.
Amy Whey might not be living a glamorous life, but her peaceful existence in the Florida suburbs is everything she ever dreamed of and then some. She spends her days giving diving lessons, helping her best friend run a book club, and occasionally baking delicious goodies to welcome new families to the neighborhood. Her greatest joy comes from her family which is made up of her husband Davis, her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter Madison, and her infant son Oliver.
One evening, Amy’s book club meeting is completely derailed by the arrival of Angelica Roux, a woman who very recently moved into a rental home not far from where Amy lives. From the moment she sets foot in Amy’s basement, the strangely magnetic Roux seems to be holding the gathered women in the palm of her hand. Suddenly, Amy’s friends and neighbors aren’t all that excited about discussing anything related to literature. Instead, they all want to get to know the alluring Roux, and Roux herself appears delighted to be the center of attention. It isn’t long before she proposes a fun little party game. She wants each woman to reveal the worst thing she’s ever done, and Amy becomes convinced Roux has shown up for a very specific reason, a reason related to Amy’s own past.
Amy wasn’t always the self-confident wife, mother, and diving instructor she is today. Twenty-five years earlier, she was an overweight teenager who longed to be a rock star and would do anything at all to be taken seriously by the boy she loved. One night, in a haze of booze, rock music, and raging hormones, something terrible happened, an act Amy has done her best to keep hidden from everyone who knows her now. Unfortunately, Roux knows exactly who Amy used to be, and she’s threatening to blow Amy’s carefully constructed house of cards to bits unless Amy can find a way to stop her.
Never Have I Ever is completely different from Ms. Jackson’s other books. There’s a depth and a darkness here that hasn’t been as obvious in her women’s fiction titles. Here, she’s not taking readers on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Instead, she’s introducing us to a woman who is bound and determined to keep those she loves safe, no matter the cost. Amy is an extremely flawed character, one I didn’t always love, but one I found myself routing for just the same.
The novel contains a couple of stellar twists that literally caused me to gasp aloud as I read. Twists are pretty run-of-the-mill in today’s thrillers, but these are truly a cut above the rest. They seemed to come out of nowhere, completely changing my perception of the story I was reading. Almost everything I thought I knew about the characters had to be discarded, and I loved the process of discovering the truth behind the numerous masks Amy and Roux wear.
The story isn’t incredibly fast-paced, but I was just fine with that. Amy’s mind was a fascinating place, and I hated to leave it when I reached the end of the book. The plot is propelled forward by the battle of wits Amy and Roux find themselves engaged in, and it worked so incredibly well.
If you’ve read Ms. Jackson’s work before, you’re familiar with just how profound her writing can be, and her latest novel will not disappoint. And if you’ve never picked up one of her books, I urge you to remedy that as soon as you can. She really is one of today’s most talented authors, one whose work I find myself returning to again and again.
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