We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers on October 6th, 2015
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller
Find It: Goodreads
Rating: 3 Stars
That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.
Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.
As someone who is always drawn in by an unreliable narrator, We’ll Never Be Apart immediately captured my attention. While a predictability I couldn’t overlook did take away from my overall enjoyment, We’ll Never Be Apart still managed to be a page-turner I finished in one sitting.
Initially, We’ll Never Be Apart did a fantastic job of building up suspense and intrigue.
Outside, wind howls and shakes the thin walls of the building. A shudder rolls through me. Oregon State Mental Health Hospital is located on a thin strip of densely forested island. The hospital advertises itself as a peaceful haven where troubled souls recover, but there’s nothing tranquil about this place. Even the name of the island, Savage Isle, was born from blood. In the late 1800s, a hundred Native Americans were forcibly relocated here, only to be killed later in a massacre. Old newspapers say there was so much blood that winter, it looked as if red snow had fallen from the sky.
But as the story progressed, the ominous threat of the hospital and its inhabitants faded. The focus of the suspense was moved from the setting, to one of the main characters – Cellie. And while I was eager to learn more about Cellie, I never truly got the sense that she was someone to be fearful of in the present; her threat seemed very much rooted in the past.
Told through alternating chapters of Alice’s journal entries from the past, and her plans to find Cellie in the present, We’ll Never Be Apart was successful at making me want to learn more about Alice’s childhood, and more specifically, Cellie’s descent into madness. Inge’s review on Goodreads describes it best:
Bit by bit, Cellie grows more unnerving and it becomes clear that something’s not quite right about her. This slow transition into madness was done incredibly well, and with every journal entry I grew more and more disturbed by Cellie’s behaviour until she became downright scary, but in the best possible way.
Because so much of Alice’s focus was on her relationship with Cellie, I never truly got a sense of who she was.
Chase was the other reason I couldn’t fully enjoy We’ll Never Be Apart’s characters. While I really enjoyed some of the banter between he and Alice, I could never get past the feeling that he was hiding something. And that would normally be fine, but Alice wasn’t as wary of him. Once his intentions were revealed, and my suspicions were proven true, I couldn’t help but wonder why Alice didn’t see through him like I had.
I do wish Alice’s motives for finding Cellie in the present had been better fleshed out, as that was the part of We’ll Never Be Apart’s plot I struggled with most. If I had been reading about Cellie planning to find and kill Alice, I would have believed it in a heartbeat. Cellie wouldn’t even need to have a plan to be successful; she’s just that diabolical. But the other way around? I just didn’t believe in Alice’s conviction that she could kill Cellie. Especially since that part of her plan was not thought-out; the actual act of seeking out her vengeance on Cellie was never discussed.
I also struggled with the authority figures. Where were they? Alice is at Savage Isle because she was accused of starting a fire that resulted in the death of her boyfriend, Jason. But somehow she and Chase are able to wander the halls, steal keycards, break into other buildings and the authority figures are none the wiser. It asked for a suspension of disbelief I just couldn’t commit to.
My issues, up until the ending, were relatively minor. While I had some grumblings, they weren’t enough to truly detract from how much I was enjoying We’ll Never Be Apart. Until the ending.
Unfolding exactly how I had hoped it wouldn’t, the ending was predictable in that it took the direction most expected. I was hoping for clues throughout We’ll Never Be Apart, hints that suggested what direction the ending would take. But like any good mystery, I wanted the clues to be misleading or to make me question the direction the ending would eventually take. Instead, I had the ending picked out within the first chapter. So I was obviously disappointed when it unfolded around me, exactly how I had predicted it would.
At times suspenseful with a twisted antagonist I found myself fascinated by, We’ll Never Be Apart was a page-turner. While a predictable ending did take away from my overall enjoyment, it was still a solid read.