Review: We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean


Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Thomas Allen Books

According to the back cover, Emiko Jean is an elementary school math teacher whose work with children in foster care inspired We’ll Never Be Apart. Jean’s knowledge of foster care is certainly evident in the narrative especially in the parts detailing the emotional consequences of being without a stable home and parents.

We’ll Never Be Apart is marketed as a thriller; the title and the back copy don’t give much away apart from an ominous suggestion of obsessive love. The prologue sets the tone for the rest of the novel as the reader is immediately thrust into the mind of one of the twins, Celia, whose only aim when we meet her is to get rid of her sister, Alice.

The first chapter opens with Alice getting re-registered into the mental facility she had made her escape from and learning that the boyfriend she had escaped with hadn’t survived the fire her sister had set. This is not a spoiler even though it feels like one. This is the premise.

In the mental facility, she meets colourful characters, all teenagers like her, and fights against the authority she is certain is hostile towards her. She strikes a tentative friendship with her roommate and is drawn to a non-crazy inmate who is unlike anyone else in the facility and towards whom she has more than platonic feelings. The narrative is split between the present and the past, a recollection of events that led to the event that landed her back into the mental facility.

Alice is determined to kill her twin before she tries to kill her and tries to use her new male friend (the cool one who is not crazy) to achieve an entrance into the section of the facility where all the dangerously crazy are kept.

While We’ll Never Be Apart had piercing moments that captured the emotional complexities children in foster care experience, I found the majority of the novel to be, sadly, predictable. The main character, Alice, is not as compelling as I wanted her to be. Her recollections of past events brought to light just how helpless and naive she is and while there is a very good reason for her character being that way, the fact remains that Alice is, mostly, boring. That is to say, I understood the construction of her character but it didn’t make me sympathetic towards her.

Furthermore, I found the lack of grief particularly regarding the dead boyfriend somewhat peculiar. Alice repeatedly reiterates that she loved the dead boyfriend immensely but nothing in her actions suggest inconsolable grief that I have come to associate with tragedy following deep love. In fact, the speed at which she transfers her amorous attentions to not-crazy boy threw me off entirely. There’s a marked lack of credibility in the absence of emotions which is again explained somewhat down the line but not in a manner I can wholly suspend my disbelief for.

The twist, such as it is, will be apparent to anyone who has read a book similar in tone and content. The novel does have strong moments where expression of friendship is concerned. Unfortunately, though, I did not enjoy it as much as I wished I had. This is not to say that other people will not enjoy the book more than I did, especially if they’re new to the genre and haven’t read anything similar before.

Scary Stories For Children: A Genre Studies Course Rationale

Scary Stories For Children: A Genre Studies Course Rationale

The upcoming 2015 Children’s Literature Association Conference is one that has caught my attention – “The High Stakes and Dark Sides of Children’s Literature,” an open-ended call for panels on horror, death, violence, trauma, and anything else dealing with the darker, more subversive elements that thread through so much of children’s literature and YA. As […]