Beware, guys – I’m about to gush. I’ve been gushing in person to everyone I know about Never Have I Ever and I’m about to do it to you, so brace yourselves.
Never Have I Ever is a memoir of sorts from Buzzfeed writer Katie Heaney. Heaney completely sold herself to me as a writer through this book. In Never Have I Ever, Heaney writes of her romantic escapades from primary school to her post-graduate degree…except that we know from the start that none of them will amount to anything. Heaney has never had a boyfriend. Ever. Nor has she had any kind of significant, ongoing romantic relationship. Heaney aims to document this rather unusual aspect of her life while examining why it might be.
I loved this book. I laughed (and occasionally snorted) out loud a lot reading it. Heaney and I are about the same age (I deduced this from a reference to seeing Mean Girls – be impressed) and so many of her cultural experiences/reference points are practically identical to my own. Reading this book was like reading a long letter from an old friend (something Heaney says she hopes for in the opening) and her experiences consistently rang true to me. Heaney writes with relish and wit about her childhood, adolescent and early adult experiences, enjoying the fact that they mostly manage to be both reassuringly typical and slightly strange all at once. (At last, someone else who agrees that middle school is the worst!)
While I have been with my boyfriend for almost a decade, thereby splitting myself rather definitely from Heaney’s experience, I was totally romance-less until 18 and I understand completely Heaney’s sequence of unrequited crushes and the terror of actually interacting with the boy in question. Heaney paints herself as rather lonely and isolated while at school, but I can safely say we would have been friends. Her reactions to her peers, her interests and her approach to boys indicate to me that we were kindred spirits, separated only by the Atlantic Ocean. I was lucky; I had a kindred spirit right there with me in the form of my best friend, and much of the book is taken up with Heaney’s love letter to her female friends and you certainly get the impression that she was overjoyed to really find her ‘persons’ (to steal from Grey’s Anatomy) once she arrived at university.
Again, like Heaney, I have a collection of wonderful, warm and essential best friends, almost all of whom are girls. I don’t know how I would have got through anything without them and it’s really good to read a book that celebrates this over romance. Because, really, that’s what Never Have I Ever is about. Yes, it’s ostensibly an examination of Heaney’s romantic life (or lack thereof) but really it’s about friendship. Heaney is unmistakably lonely without true, dyed-in-the-wool best friends as a child and the joy and strength she draws from those friends she makes as an adult is lovely to read about. Importantly, Heaney doesn’t end the book being swept off her feet in a whirlwind romance. Instead, she re-affirms what she’s been exploring throughout the book: that actually, she’s just fine on her own. That she’s interesting and funny and fulfilled without a boyfriend and will continue to be so both until and after she meets someone.
I honestly cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s funny, smart and warm and I can’t wait to read it again!