Initial reaction: I’m starting to think with every book I pick up by Colleen Hoover, whether it’s solo or collaborated, she always has brilliant concepts to write about, but I usually have a problem with how the execution comes across. This first part of “Never Never” included, which is a shame because I really like some of the ideas and points of intrigue in here. It’s enough to keep me reading, but…I’m not that enthused about it.

Full review:

“Never Never” is a collaboration serial novel between Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher. I’ve read several of Hoover’s works (with varying reactions), and this is my first read from Fisher. It’s hard for me to have a handle in terms of how their styles differ as writers, so I can only react as to what this work gives me.

This is going to be a relatively short reflection because it only offered part of a story for the 150 digital pages it expounded upon. Basically, it trades between the perspectives of Silas and Charlie – teens in high school who suddenly realize they don’t remember who they are or their lives in general. It’s selective amnesia, and they’re the only two who seem to have the condition. They spend a good deal of time trying to play off the fact that nothing’s wrong while also trying to figure out who they were before the memory loss. There are certain things they remember as creatures of habit, but as far as some major events are concerned (Their families being a part of a corrupt money scheme, Charlie’s father being in jail, Silas having an affair with the school guidance counselor, as per examples), nope – no memories.

I will say I liked the concept of the novel in terms of Silas and Charlie trying to find their identities – it felt similar to a FP Role-Playing game I played a while back with a similar concept (and I can’t remember the name of it for the life of me – ironic, right?). Watching Charlie and Silas trying to reconnect with their lives and make sense of their relationships was probably the more genuine offering this narrative gave me, as well as tidbits of an emotional and legal rift that occurred between their families. There were some moments of humor I found myself chuckling at as well (Silas calling Charlie random superheroine names during one of the scenes was funny).

But I kept asking in the back of my mind “Where the heck is the focus on the plot?” during the entire time I read this. The pacing for such a short read was sluggish and meandered far more often than not. By the time the “twist” ending came about, I was like “You could’ve gotten to that point SOONER, you know!” A good point to end on, but it left me with more questions than answers and some of those questions could’ve been answered with the narrative time versus other points where it felt like it wasted on other things.

Plus, a lot of it was petty and shallow – if you want my honest opinion about it, especially for such a heavy concept. Losing your memory is a very scary thing, and I imagine it’d be its own measure of traumatic for the people who have that experience. I’d expect that if pressed to keep it secret, it’d have much more urgency than it seemed to have in parts of this serial. For Silas and Charlie, there were points where it hits them hard, particularly when it comes to dealing with their families individually. I got that, but there were other times (mostly during the instalove, which I mentally discarded because I wouldn’t even call this a romance – it happens way too fast and I couldn’t believe in it), but other times I was like “Uh…doesn’t it even occur to them how much crap they did in their lives and they can’t even remotely remember it?”

Silas and Charlie could be seen as typical NA leading characters. I didn’t like Charlie’s character because of how shallow and judgmental she was. From her comments regarding seeing her unrecognized face in a photo of her driver’s license (she puts emphasis in noting that she’s “pretty”), to comments about a black girl she’s shocked about seeing (for what reason, I have no idea), to a pimple faced girl she notes as “ugly”, to commenting about a homeless woman’s smell.

Like, what the heck man? What is this girl’s problem? How am I supposed to feel anything, let alone sympathy, for how horribly she puts other people down? And Silas, when he was gushing over Charlie, seemed to forget the rest of the world and responsibilities – even if it was over a girl he barely seemed to know, let alone not knowing himself.

As for the narrative space that was spent pushing their relationship – I’ll admit it was too much, especially for the concept of discovering why both characters were in this predicament in the first place.

It was a quick read, and I thought the concept had potential, so I’ll be reading part two to this, but I really didn’t like that this story offered so few answers to the overarching questions of the work and how shallow the portrayal was. I’m hoping the next part will improve on these issues.

Overall score: 2/5 stars.

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