Title: Never Ending
Author: Martyn Bedford
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
So on twitter I follow Kate Hattemer, the author of a book I previously reviewed, and yesterday she posted a link on to “10 (more) teen books adults shouldn’t resist,” a list on Kirkus Reviews. I, of course, took that opportunity to add to my Goodreads “to-read” bookshelf. But I also decided to be proactive about my “to-read” list and start actually looking for books on my list I can read. Lucky for me, I found Never Ending, which was one of the books mentioned by Kirkus, at my local library branch, and I picked it up immediately.
First, a brief summary from the author’s website:
When a family holiday ends in tragedy, the grieving parents’ marriage is left in ruins and, Shiv, their 15-year-old daughter, is tormented by what happened… and her part in it. Off the rails and unable to live with her guilt, Shiv is sent away to an exclusive clinic that claims to “cure” people like her.
But this is no ordinary psychiatric institution and Shiv discovers that her release – from her demons, and from the clinic itself – will come, if it comes at all, at a bizarre and terrible price.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I first started to read this book. From the description, I was almost prepared for some sort of supernatural or fantasy novel. I thought that the clinic was going to be much more… sinister, than it actually was. However, I was wrong – this was just your standard realistic fiction, in terms of genre.
That being said, this is a very dark novel. Shiv is haunted by her brother Declan’s death and the fault that she feels she bears for the incident. The book shifts between her time at the psychiatric clinic and a flashback to the Greek island of Kyritos, where she vacationed with her family during Declan’s final days. Her part in his death isn’t revealed until maybe 80% of the way through the book, and part of the reason why I couldn’t put it down was because I wanted to know what happened. How much of her guilt was deserved? How much of it was she inflating in her mind?
She’s not alone in her battle with her past and her looming future. Other than her parents, Declan, and Nikos, a Greek teen who played a vital role in her flashback scenes and whose romantic entanglements with Shiv led to the incident around Declan’s death, the only other real characters in the book are the director of the clinic and Shiv’s fellow patients who also suffer from guilt over a loved one’s death. One patient, Mikey, is assigned to Shiv as her “buddy,” and wavers between a foil, a mirror, and a substitute little brother. Her relationship with Mikey is almost as heart-wrenching as her relationship with Declan, and if you read the book, you’ll see why. That was one major plus of this novel: while there was romance, it certainly didn’t take center stage.
This wasn’t a feel-good read for me. It left my thoughts churning, and certain parts hit home even though I’ve never been through an experience like Shiv. But as dark as it was, or perhaps because it was, the book was incredibly engaging. I started it last night and read until I fell asleep, and then finished it in the car on a ride downtown because I couldn’t bear to wait until I got back home. Immediately after reading it, I would have given it 3 stars. I didn’t know how to feel. But the more I think about it, the more I like it, and I will probably read it a second time just to take it all in again.
4 out of 5 stars.