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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: Never Enough by Denise Jaden

TITLE: Never Enough 
AUTHOR: Denise Jaden
PUBLISHER:  Simon Pulse
FORMAT: Paperback, 400 pages
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary
AGES: 14 and up
ISBN: 9781442429079
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?


I received this Advance Reviewer Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any compensation for my review, and the views expressed herein are my own. 

Wow! I feel emotionally spent!

The Contemporary Young Adult genre is not one that I normally read. However, when I read the synopsis, I was immediately drawn to the heavy themes of the book.

Never Enough is narrated in the first-person by Loann Rochester, a high school junior. She has been eclipsed her entire life by her older, beautiful sister, Claire, who is a high school senior. Claire is Miss Popularity, hanging out with the "in" crowd, while her sister feels dumpy with her curly, frizzy hair and chubby tummy and thighs. When her two best girlfriends, Shayleen and Deirdre, turn on her, Loann feels suddenly alone. She makes friends with a boy named Marcus, who is a bit of a loner and constantly picked on by the jocks. They develop a great rapport, and Loann wonders whether Marcus is developing feelings for her in the same way that she is for him.

Loann has always had a school-girl crush on Claire's boyfriend, Josh, who happens to be one of the guys in the jocks crowd. After Claire and Josh break up, Josh puts the moves on Loann.

Loann breaks the cardinal rule: She sleeps with her sister's ex-boyfriend. Even though she probably deserves a little punishment for betraying her sister, she doesn't deserve being used and thrown away the way that she was. Word gets around that she had a one-night stand with Josh, and other boys from the "in" crowd start to pay her some unwanted attention because they think she will put out for them. Loann starts to realize that things in her life are changing very quickly, and not just for herself; Claire, too, is changing. She is getting too thin and refuses to eat protein. Her once-beautiful hair is becoming dull and lack-luster. Loann sees what Claire is doing to herself, but she is helpless to stop it. Claire drops not-so-subtle hints to Loann to mind her own business if she doesn't want their parents to find out what Loann has been up to with her ex-boyfriend! By the time that their parents finally catch on to what is going on with Claire, her health is already in jeopardy.

Never Enough is an emotional roller-coaster! The first part of the book started off a little slow for me, and it brought back those high school memories of the cliques and how difficult it was to fit in. There is a lot of angst in the story. Loann is a very real character, and I could immediately identify with her. Even though a girl like her would normally be jealous of her prettier big sister, Loann never came across that way. She admired and was proud of her, and her love for her sister is palpable. Their family life was difficult to read. Their mom, Beth, feels like she has failed Claire by not recognizing the signs of her illness. I think she actually did realize what was going on but didn't know how to deal with it. Their dad is the typical absent father who is so self-absorbed that he fails to realize that he is at the root of the family's problems. He is never home and leaves Beth to run the home and be the disciplinarian. His way of dealing with the familial strife is to not come home. I found myself furiously flipping the pages and getting mad at him for his lack of interest in his children.

This is a Young Adult novel, so I was quite surprised by the scene of Loann's encounter with Josh. I don't think I have read a Young Adult book yet that went into such graphic detail, so I think it definitely qualifies for the upper end of the age-range. I like how Jaden handled the aftermath of the tête-à-tête. Loanne is a smart girl and, truth be told, I was a little peeved at how she fell for Josh. She does appear to learn her lesson, though, and realizes that she is not mature enough to handle a sexual relationship.

I loved Loann's blossoming relationship with Marcus. I thought it was very sweet and progressed in a healthy way, in sharp contrast to Loann's fling with Josh.

Jaden really tackles so many tough issues: Peer pressure, cliques, sex, and eating disorders (bulimia and anorexia). There was also a side-story concerning Marcus' family, and we learn that he is being abused by his father. By mid-way through the book, I found it impossible to put down. Jaden really puts the reader through a gamut of emotions, and I couldn't help shedding a few tears!

This is Jaden's sophomore book, and I'm hunting down her debut, Losing Faith, which was released in 2010. A companion book, Never Enough Stories, will be available on September 1st which contains deleted scenes from Never Enough, as well as further details of how the friendship began between Marcus and Loann from Marcus' point of view.

Because I enjoyed this book so much, I am willing to try more of the Contemporary YA genre! 



  1. Sounds like a great read. I have to put this one on my TBR list! To get you so emotional, I just have to read this one.


    1. It was, Mary! I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

  2. I don't luck books that make me cry, but that didn't stop me from tweeting.


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