Author: Denise Jaden
ARC Acquired from: Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:
From the author of Losing Faith, a novel about two sisters and the eating disorder that threatens to destroy their family.
Loann’s always wanted to be popular and pretty like her sister, Claire. So when Claire’s ex-boyfriend starts flirting with her, Loann is willing to do whatever it takes to feel special… even if that means betraying her sister.
But as Loann slips inside Claire’s world, she discovers that everything is not as it seems. Claire’s quest for perfection is all-consuming, and comes at a dangerous price. As Claire increasingly withdraws from friends and family, Loann struggles to understand her and make amends. Can she heal their relationship —and her sister—before it’s too late?
First Sentence: "They say you shouldn't try to be someone you're not."
Going into this, I had completely forgotten what it was about, and I've never read Jaden's first book, Losing Faith, so I went into Never Enough blind. I love being able to do that, and reading this book was an amazing experience. I really hope I can do the novel justice with this review, and apologize in advance in case I don't, since I'm exhausted and filled with pre-BEA jitters.
Never Enough captured me and held me rapt all the way through. The book also surprised me constantly. I wouldn't really call anything that happened a twist so much as people acting in believably unpredictable ways. Rarely have been so unsure of what was going to happen in a book. There was really only one plot point that I saw coming. Not being able to predict the ending is so rare, and Never Enough was all the more meaningful and profound for the masterful storytelling.
Loann, the main character, is a wonderful heroine. She's an average teen: she doesn't look like a model (in fact, she describes herself as looking like a potato), she is not popular, and she has middling to low grades. At first, the story is about her and her troubles with her friends. For a while, she is friendless, and I empathized with her so much. Loann lives her life in the shadow of her older sister (a senior to her junior), who she thinks has the perfect life. Claire is pretty, popular and dating Josh, the guy Loann has had a crush on for ages, before Claire even met him.
As the book moves on, the book tackles more and more serious issues, although the primary one is eating disorders. Lovely Claire is wasting away, physically and mentally. Her life is constructed around lies that keep others from noticing that she's not eating. Having pretty much no food intake, she has no energy and simply drifts through life unable to figure out what to do, even though she's capable of so much. Seen through Loann's eyes, Claire's condition is unbelievably heart-wrenching, as she watches the sister she's always envied disappear. I loved how Claire's gradual change was captured in the state of her hair, slowly losing it's shininess.
These two sisters form a sort of classic pattern, the two people who secretly envy one another, unaware of what each has to offer. They both suffer from such incredibly low self-esteem, and it was unclear precisely where this came from. Jaden does not point to a particular root cause, instead showing their lives, allowing the reader to draw conclusions. She is not at all heavy-handed or preachy.
Two other things I need to talk about before I can wrap up this review are photography and Marcus. Loann is rescued from her friendless, useless (in her eyes) life by both of those. For her birthday, she receives a camera, a fancy one. She studies and learns how to use it, and discovers a natural talent for photography. The descriptions of Loann taking pictures are so loving and totally convey her passion for the art.
Marcus is a loner who she slowly befriends. There friendship has such a slow, but real, progression. Neither one is especially social or trusting by nature, so it takes some time for them to plant roots, but their friendship is so powerful once they do. Marcus is a wonderful character. He's a great guy, dependable, hard-working, and clever. However, he also feels like a real person with his strange interests, and his difficulty letting people in. Like Loann, he stands out amongst the usual YA characters.
Jaden handles seriously dark issues honestly and beautifully. This is a must read for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson. If you like your books painfully honest, do yourself a big favor and procure a copy of Never Enough. You won't be sorry.
Favorite Quote: "I fiddled with the buttons on my jacket, hoping the question would disappear. But it didn't. It just hung there, unavoidably stuck in midair between us like the Goodyear Blimp."
"And if you want beautiful, pitiful, have me in a picture"