________________ CM . . . Volume XIX Number 4. . . .September 28, 2012


Never Enough.

Denise Jaden.
New York, NY: Simon Pulse (Distributed in Canada by Simon & Schuster Canada), 2012.
372 pp., trade pbk., $11.99.
ISBN 978-1-4424-2907-9.

Subject Headings:
Eating disorders-Fiction.
Family problems-Fiction.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



"Sure, Claire had stopped puking, but she still had one fault. She was barely eating.

"Want some toast, Claire?"I asked.

"Uh...no thanks, Loey. You go ahead."
Funny how she never questioned what I ate the way she did with Jasmine. Obviously she didn't care how I looked.

I plunked a piece of bread into the toaster, then stomped to the other side of the kitchen.

"Apple?" I asked as I picked one up, tossed it in the air, and then held it out toward her. Mom had turned on her cell and now chattered in the background, turning away from me as if annoyed by my volume.

"Banana?" I asked a little louder. She shook her head harder, like she had flying insects in her hair. I walked over and placed the banana on the table in front of her anyway. I went to the pantry and yanked the door open.

Claire glanced up and shook her head. I put the apple down and picked up a banana.

"Cereal?" I asked, walking over and dropping two boxes in front of Claire. Just then, my toast popped up. Claire kept her eyes on her magazine and away from the spread I'd laid before her. I dropped my toast onto a plate, grabbed a knife and the butter, and went to sit down beside her.

Right beside her.

I hated her for being pretty and thin and sweet and honest and virtuous.

I spread a thick layer of butter across the toast within six inches of her face. She did everything she could to ignore me, but her face became pale, then gray, then an odd shade of green, and I wondered if she might puke right here in the kitchen. I scraped another full knife-load of butter out of the container and continued with another smear.

"You sure?" I held it directly under her nose.

She backed her chair away from the table, stared straight at me and whispered, "I hate you."

Good. Now we're even.

Mom didn't notice a thing when Claire stood up and left the room. I was certain the production I'd put on could not have been missed, but Mom faced the wall calendar, telling Mrs. Emerson about Claire's next dance performance. To top it off, she droned on about how much Claire absolutely loved her ballet!

When Mom hung up the phone, she looked at my grease-dripping toast and said, "Loann, honey, why don't you have some fruit instead? You're never going to keep a pretty little figure if you eat like that."

I stared at her for a long moment, wondering what I could possibly say in reply. Finally I dropped the toast onto a plate and walked out the door without a word.


Loann is a 16-year-old who has been overshadowed her entire life by her older sister, Claire, who is pretty and popular, seemingly without trying. Loann doesn't do as well at school, doesn't have a lot of friends, and certainly doesn't have the looks and poise of her sibling. Gradually, however, Loann begins to realize that Claire's world isn't as ideal as it appears from the outside and her seemingly perfect sister is, in fact, desperately unhappy. Claire wants so much to be perfect that she has gone to extremes and now is fighting a losing battle with anorexia and bulimia. Loann wants to help her sister but is rebuffed so often that she wonders if she will be able to help her heal before her eating disorders take over Claire's life completely.

     Jaden has written a second young adult novel which is truly remarkable and which will have immense appeal, especially for female readers. Loann, the main character, is believable, funny, and honest. Her self-esteem tends to be low because the family's world revolves around her sister. Claire is an aspiring dancer who is in senior year and will soon attend college. Even the girls' parents spend most of their time thinking about Claire and her future and how they will manage to pay for everything she wants. Loann fades into the background and seems quite happy to remain there. And yet, readers see that she, too, has lots of personality and talent. It takes another social misfit, Marcus, to help Loann realize she really can have a boy both as a friend and as a romantic interest. Drama class opens up a new world for Loann as she and Marcus learn how to design a set for the school play and this, in turn, leads Loann to photography which proves that she has a special talent. She struggles with self-worth and self-acceptance but finds healthy ways to combat them.

     Never Enough is poignant and will captivate readers from beginning to end. The title leads to a variety of interesting questions which many of us struggle with at one time or another. Are we ever thin enough? Popular enough? Smart enough? What does it take to be a good enough friend? Or sister? Or parent? Even after finishing the novel, these questions continue to reverberate for readers. Claire embraces anorexia because she can never be pretty enough to measure up to her own physical ideal. Loann wonders if she could have done more to help her sister, could have somehow been a better sister and saved Claire from herself. The girls' mother is the one character who actually expresses her doubts aloud: "'Tell me where I failed, Loann,' she said from the living room couch, staring at a blank patch of wall. Her voice was as flat as the wall in front of her."

     Teens will certainly enjoy this novel, but adults would learn from it as well as it captures the angst of so many teenage girls who strive to overcome low self-esteem. Never Enough may not provide answers about dealing with self-awareness and eating issues, but it shines a light on them in a caring and sensitive way.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired secondary school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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