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I Never

Review

I Never

I NEVER by Lauren Hopper is a coming-of age-story that looks at the first relationship of 17-year-old Janey King. Janey, a smart and motivated member of the debate and track team, has never had a romantic relationship, until the winter vacation of her junior year comes and changes everything. On this vacation, Janey encounters a multitude of changes, catalyzed by her parents’ decision to get a divorce and followed by the acquisition of her first serious boyfriend, Luke. Though Janey falls quickly for Luke, she soon discovers that dating the most coveted boy in the school is not always easy. Friendships end, jealousies take over and Luke’s upcoming departure for college continuously looms over Janey’s relationship, and she is left wondering whether her seemingly perfect boyfriend is actually as good as he seems. I NEVER follows Janey as she begins the discovery that comes with your first relationship and all of the mature choices you have the ability to make.

"Hopper takes on a taboo subject in an effective way throughout her entire book and makes it an incredibly positive take on teenage sexuality."

The messages this book carries are important and refreshing within the young adult literary world. Being honest, I NEVER is almost completely focused on sex and the impact it has on relationships. Though many books deal with teenage sex, many either gloss it over or don’t adequately address the magnitude of the decision being made by the main characters. I NEVER, on the other hand, is totally centered on discovering your own sexuality and lingers on every single aspect of life that the decision changes. Readers follow Janey from her first kiss and from there to every decision to further her sex life with Luke. Hopper also brings the concept of virginity vs. experience into light with Luke and Janey coping with each other’s experience and lack thereof. Hopper takes on a taboo subject in an effective way throughout her entire book and makes it an incredibly positive take on teenage sexuality.

One main strength of the book was Janey’s two close friends, including her male friend, Brett. The way that they were both portrayed seemed honest and both had depth and Brett was notably against Janey’s sexual growth, but eventually came around to view her friendship over anything else. He provided a good point of view in the novel and a good example of changing friendships. They were relatable and through most of the book I even found them more believable than Janey’s character. They had a mostly supportive and caring relationship with each other, something that is usually lacking in teenage romance books, and really came together to support Janey through her development. Also, Luke was a dream. But not in a completely unrealistic way. Luke was patient and kind and overall made a great impact on Janey’s life but never pushed her too hard for anything. Janey and Luke’s relationship was healthy and a good example for teens reading the novel.

The one issue I had with this book is that some of the actions and thoughts of Janey seemed overly simplified and at points unbelievable. Janey’s relationship with Luke progresses with little to no issues, and even gets to the point where her parents knew about and were completely okay with the sexual side of her relationship with Luke. The relationship never seemed to encounter any real issues, despite Hopper’s attempts to make drama. Every issue gets resolved quickly and without much real thought and before it can cause any real problems in Janey’s relationship. I NEVER was a little too convenient and I don’t think it accurately represents many teenage relationships that are interfered in by parents disapproval or any other sort of emotional issues that aren’t resolved by a quick discussion with your significant other. Another problem is that dialogue between the characters sometimes seems forced, or like it’s trying to be too “teenager-y” in its delivery. Janey’s character at times read like a teenager written by an adult instead of just a teenager. But overall, that issue was minor and Janey was a generally well-executed character.

Definitely for more mature audiences, I NEVER does not shy away from details about sex and other aspects of relationships. Readers should be prepared for sometimes graphically described scenes of sexual encounters. Those looking for a more modern version of Judy Blume’s FOREVER will adore Hopper’s look into what a teenage relationship full of firsts can be, and the love and heartbreak that come with it.

Reviewed by Anna Kate L. on December 13, 2017

I Never
by Laura Hopper