Requested by the author.
Jen Butler has a dark past, her life has been filled with pain and grief. It takes a deadly turn after Will, her boyfriend of one year disappears one night completely. Unable to believe that she’s been dumped, Jen, after exhausting all the other possibilities, goes to his New England hometown to find out more information. The tiny town is where she first notices that she’s being followed. The brief snippets of her boyfriend’s past lead her to Boston where she finds out that he is a lot more than an owner of a small computer company. The people on Jen’s tail are forced to follow her all the way ’round the country, getting closer and closer with each stop she makes. Will she ever learn what became of her boyfriend? And why can’t she stop having strangely prophetic nightmares almost every night?
The best way to define the genre of “Never Look Back” would be to call it an action-packed mystery. I’ve recently gone through a Gillian Flynn binge and needless to say, I was hungry for more thrillers of the sort. I almost forgot about this book referred to me by the author until I browsed through my Kindle in search of a suitable follow-up to GF, and spotted the haunting cover.
The debut novel starts with a terrifying nightmare in which our heroine gets brutally attacked. Dream sequences aren’t the best way to start books, but in this case, it was a pretty good way to get me interested. The pace, as I learnt right away, wasn’t going to be slow, but rather, most pages were packed with action sequences, such as car accidents, boat shootings, and dark alley encounters. I should say that I figured out the mystery about halfway through the book – I’ve seen too many crime shows to not be able to guess what was going on. The romantic parts were very cheesy, although I was grateful for the brevity of the love triangle arc between Jen, her boyfriend, and her college ex. The writing was pretty decent, for a debut novelist, but I had some issues with it that I’m going to elaborate on below. The author has clearly followed some writing tips that circulate on many writing portals of which I’m a member – this was evident in the way she mocked the cliches in the book while using them relentlessly. The main character, Jen, was rather well-rounded, with a backstory that tied well into the plot, but sometimes, she annoyed me by acting like one of those characters in horror movies who adopt the “There’s something scary down here, let’s go check it out” attitude when they see a creepy basement or something along those lines. Her love interests weren’t particularly swoonworthy, but this isn’t a romance novel. The story itself was engaging, gripping and fast-paced.
Now, onto my issues with the writing. This book is one of the few works I have come across that is self-published. And I’m going to go on a limb here and take a guess that the author didn’t have an editor. I myself am a writer and I do sometimes miss out on the stupidest things when I read my writing. However, it felt as though the author decided to stick with the spellchecker privided by Microsoft Word or something of the sort, and didn’t get the chance to have a read through before going ahead with publishing. The constant “your-you’re” errors, the apostrophes being in the wrong places, the sentences repeating themselves twice in the same paragraph, and other things have almost made me put the book down. If it weren’t for my thirst for good thrillers (and this one would have been pretty decent if the author had an editor), I would have done exactly that. What is significant in a good thriller, that some people tend to overlook, is punctuation, which was unfortunately off the mark many times during the action sequences in the book. The other thing that bugged me was that the author didn’t separate Jen’s dream sequences from the real-life action. I realise that it might have been an attempt to confuse the reader and make it harder for them to figure out what was true and what was the stuff of nightmares, but it didn’t work too well in this case.
So, to finish this off, my advice to the author is to either fire their editor right away or actually get one. It is clear that she is a very good writer, both character- and plot-wise, and I believe that her next book could potentially be excellent after some editing.
“The words on her computer were not only a source of income but a method of healing”
“Her writing had brought her comfort but it became her alternate reality, a place to hide her emotions, a place to bury them”
You might enjoy “Never Look Back” if you liked:
“The Woman in Black” by Susan Hill
“Dark Places” or “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn
“In The Woods” by Tana French
Jen Butler – Amanda Seyfried
Will – James Marsden
Cameron – Josh Dallas