With Memorial Day weekend coming up, we are officially entering beach read season! I just finished a book that would make a perfect poolside or oceanfront companion. It's titled Never Have I Ever, written by Joshilyn Jackson.
The story is set in a suburban town in Florida. The main character, Amy, finds herself being blackmailed by one of the other neighborhood moms, Roux. A criminal act from Amy's teenage years comes back to haunt her, as she desperately tries to maintain equilibrium in her new life.
One of the things at risk if her past is exposed, is her friendship with a woman named Charlotte. As she contemplates the truth coming out, she realizes, "I was seeing myself as Char would see me, if she knew. My motives didn't matter. Neither did the genuine love that had grown up in between us, because it was blanketed inside so much deceit. I had killed her mother, derailed her father, changed her childhood. Then 'd stepped in for the mother I'd killed, moving into her most sacred spaces and dishonestly and with no consent. I'd made her dependent on me under cover of a thousand silent lies. She leaned on me more than her own husband. How would she feel, to know that the person she relied on most was offering feeble payback under cover of kindness and love?"
In this same chapter, Amy reflects on her friendship with Charlotte. I thought this passage gave a great sense for Jackson's writing style. On page 206, "On the surface we didn't seem well suited to be friends. I was more than a decade her senior, single where she was married, introverted when she was a decided extrovert. But we ended up chatting happily for hours. We talked about books, our jobs, her husband, my grumpy landlord. Neither of us talked about our extended families much, though she said enough for me to gather that her mother had passed and she had minimal contact with her father. My quasi estrangement from my own parents doubled as common ground; we shared both a wound and a desire not to talk about it."
If you like a mystery / thriller, the back third of this book picks up the pace and has you constantly guessing how Amy and Roux's stand off will end. Will the truth come out? Will Amy lose Charlotte?
The chapters are long, so there isn't as natural a stopping point if you only have time to read 10-15 pages at once. Just go into it knowing that.
Jackson is the author of eight novels, so if you wind up loving this, you can read much more of her work.
I'm getting ready to do another big order from Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA as I prep for a summer on the beach. I will be sure to share what I select!
*Image courtesy of Book Club Chat.