She’d do anything for her boy…
Vanessa Sawyer knows all about pain.
She’s felt it every day since marrying the boy who fathered her baby in high school. All he’s meant are broken bones, broken heart and broken dreams. But he also brought her the love of her life. When her son Wren was born, her baby boy was her salvation.
Vanessa watches Wren grow and become a young man she can be proud of. Until one night everything changes, including Wren. One night that her son refuses to speak of. Now Vanessa can’t rest, not until she uncovers the secret that her son has been hiding from her.
Will she find the answers she’s searching for or will her quest for the truth take her to a dark place where all hope is lost?
One evil act. One tragedy. Lives destroyed forever.
Page-turning, heart-pounding and unforgettable, Kirsty Ferguson has written the perfect novel for all fans of B. A. Paris and Adele Parks.
I spent an awful lot of this book wondering where the heck the story was going. Most mystery/thriller type of stories start off with the crime and then you get to solve it along with the protagonists, often using flashbacks to revisit scenes which build up to it. Never Ever Tell, however, doesn’t follow this track; the entire first third of the book is basically laying the foundational backstory of Vanessa. Pregnant at seventeen after a fling with her best friend’s boyfriend and married at eighteen to a man who rapidly turned abusive, Vanessa is an extremely sympathetic protagonist. A devoted mother, she struggles to raise her sons and eventually, get out from her abusive marriage and make a new life for herself. A shocking tragedy, however, brings her world crashing down, and she can’t stop herself asking questions… which lead to an even more shocking discovery.
The first thing I have to say here is TRIGGER WARNINGS. Holy moly, this book needs ALL of the trigger warnings. Underage sex, rape, gang rape, spousal abuse (physical and sexual), parental abuse of a child, cancer, stillbirth, death of a major character, suicide attempts (cutting), successful suicide (pills)... the list goes on and on. It’s honestly a bit of a litany of misery… but it is extremely well written. It’s absolutely impossible not to feel sympathy for Vanessa, and then grieve with her at the final, catastrophic disaster.
And then feel massively betrayed with her, too.
I don’t think I can go on any further without spoilers, but I think it’s important to make my feelings about this clear, so: BEWARE, SPOILERS AHEAD.
Discovering that Vanessa’s son had grown up to be just as awful as his abusive father was a massive kick in the guts to anyone who’s grown up under the shadow of abuse and is determined to break the cycle. It’s a harmful, damaging trope that the abused is inevitably going to become an abuser. Vanessa felt betrayed when she found out the truth; I felt FURIOUS. I finished the book and slammed it down feeling like there was steam coming out of my ears, and I’ve had to wait a while to write this review to try and remove the emotion from it.
Here’s the thing. Kirsty Ferguson is an exceptional writer to make me feel that much emotion in a book. I was welling up at Wren’s death - I’m a mother of sons myself, and it hit way too close to home - but the twist was just too much. It’s not telegraphed in the text. We spend time in Wren’s PoV and there’s no hint that he’s anything other than the wholesome, good kid his mother believes. It was a twist going for shock value and I think it perpetuates a harmful trope, as I noted above. Vanessa’s actions after finding out the truth damaged her whole character arc too, because she knew there were more victims of Wren’s gang and chose to do nothing about them. Where was the justice in that?
Despite the exceptional quality of the writing, the fact that the overwhelming emotion I felt at the conclusion of this book was rage means that I can’t give it any more than three stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley and Rachel's Random Resources.
Author Bio –
Kirsty Ferguson is a born and bred Australian. She writes crimes and mystery novels. Her stories center around strong women and dark themes that are topical and relevant to today. Kirsty chooses to deconstruct and enthrall her readers with the secrets of any everyday person behind closed doors. She has long been a lover or writing and reading, creating stories from a young age.
Social Media Links – https://www.kirstyferguson.com