CM . . .
Volume XIX Number 4. . . .September 28, 2012
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.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired secondary school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.