Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Never Have I Ever
BY Joshilyn Jackson

William Morrow
July 30, 2019/ ISBN 9780062855312

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson is an entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love. Although the story starts out a bit slowly, after the third chapter, it takes off and soars, never descending.

Jackson noted, “A scene in the book before this, The Almost Sisters, had a ninety-year-old woman saying, ‘you can’t go around staring at the worst thing in your hand. It is not a way to live.’ I knew then it was the plot for the next book I was going to write. Also, I teach college level courses at Georgia’s Facility for Women, a maximum-security prison. One of my students has been there for thirty years and will likely be paroled soon. She told me, ‘I have done my time and am a changed person.’ She has almost finished her AA college degree. Her worry is that an employer, someone at her Church, or a friend, will look at her and see that one act she had done all those years ago as defining her. What she said knocked around with me, and it all came together in this book.”

With secrets, lies, betrayals, and the sins of someone’s youth, Jackson pits two women against each other. It begins when a new neighbor, Angelica Roux, invites herself to a book club. She takes over the book club and shifts the focus to playing a scandalous version of “Never Have I Ever,” a game of spilling secrets after drinking too much. Some think the game is fun, some refuse to play and leave, while Amy Whey realizes that Roux knows her darkest youthful secret.

Roux intends to blackmail Amy and tells her for the sum of a quarter of a million dollars; she will quietly go away. But Amy has no intention of giving her anything and tries to beat Roux at her own game, hoping Roux has underestimated her. Matching wits with her in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets, Amy knows she will lose her family, friends, and even her freedom, if she can’t beat Roux.

“I wrote Roux as moral, a terrible human being, a predator who likes to intimidate and manipulate. She is an instigator and provocateur. What I find interesting about her is that she believes her narrative, and does not think she is a bad guy. She has this innate ability to justify whatever she wants to do. She baby steps into it. For example, you are happily married and then decide to just have coffee with this interesting guy at work, then just having lunch, and then six months later you think how did that just happen?”

Amy has settled into an ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it: teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, and helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and her adorable infant son. She is a character readers will root for despite her flaws. Contrast her with Roux, a diabolical character who is nasty, calculating, smart, devious, and takes pleasure in being cruel. Together they play a cat and mouse game, and the mystery is who will come out with a win.

“Amy was written as someone who wants to be a good person. She is invested in her family, and they are the center of her life. Independent, smart, disciplined, has some control issues and a natural facility for lying, including to herself. Amy is fierce, determined, warm, supportive, loving, and kind.”

This story has an exciting plot, great writing, unexpected twists, and memorable characters. A word of warning, do not plan on sleeping because this book is one that no one can put down.


Reviewed 2019