Murder. Fire. Revenge. That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister, Cellie, set.
But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths—and find out whether the one person she trusts is telling her only half the story.
“One part mystery and two parts psychological thriller” (School Library Journal), We’ll Never Be Apart is “a killer debut” (Adele Griffin, National Book Award finalist).
“Realistic characters make good use of a gothic setting that will attract anyone with a taste for the edge.” —Kirkus Reviews
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In my mind there are black-and-white photos. They float around, landing softly here and there, resting on top of other memories, dreamscapes and nightmares. Sometimes they bloom color, like the one I'm focusing on now. It unfolds, like a flower opening for the sun, the petals wet and dark. Slowly it bleeds brilliant pigments. Dark sky. Clear rain. Yellow headlights. A boy with curly hair and a crooked grin. Jason in the rain. My favorite memory of him.
"When was your last period?" the nurse asks me. "Alice?" The nurse's voice is like snapping fingers, calling me to attention. The image fades. White paper crinkles as I shift uncomfortably on the exam table. I try to count the hours, the suns and moons, and remember how much time has passed since the fire. It's been weeks, I think. Tsunamis have decimated cities in less time than that. I rub a hand over my chest where breathing is still difficult. The nurse's white ID badge reads NURSE DUMMEL, OREGON STATE MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITAL. I recognize her face from before, from my last stay here. The face of a bulldog. Round cheeks set over a row of bottom teeth that stick out just a smidge too far. Nurse Dummel clears her throat.
"Uh, I don't know ..." I say. "I'm not sure. Maybe two weeks ago?" I swallow. Even though it's been a while since the fire, my tongue still tastes of ash. Maybe it always will.
Nurse Dummel types something into a computer. "And how are the burns?"
The burns that travel over each shoulder blade and down past my right wrist tingle. Miraculously, the fire didn't touch my left hand. The skin there is still soft and smooth. "Better," I say.
Although I don't remember the fire, I do have some fuzzy recollections of my intensive care stay. The bitter uncertainty of those days and the bright, bright pain that just wouldn't go away.
"That all?" the nurse asks. "No pain, numbness, or swelling?"
"No. It's just itchy now."
Outside, wind howls and shakes the thin walls of the building. A shudder rolls through me. Oregon State Mental Health Hospital is located on a thin strip of densely forested island. The hospital advertises itself as a peaceful haven where troubled souls recover, but there's nothing tranquil about this place. Even the name of the island, Savage Isle, was born from blood. In the late 1800s, a hundred Native Americans were forcibly relocated here, only to be killed later in a massacre. Old newspapers say there was so much blood that winter, it looked as if red snow had fallen from the sky.
"That's good. You're lucky you can feel anything at all. Some second-degree burns cause loss of sensation." Lucky. Am I lucky? That's not how I would characterize the situation.
"You'll need to stay on antibiotics for the next couple of weeks and keep up with your physical therapy." I almost laugh. When I left the ICU, a doctor gave me a pamphlet on hand exercises, explaining that they would help me regain full mobility. That was the only physical therapy I received. I flex my hand now. The movement causes a subtle ache, but other than that, everything appears to work just fine.
A white wristband prints out next to the computer. "Left wrist please," Nurse Dummel says, gesturing for me to hold out my arm. I comply, and she snaps on the tight plastic. There are four colors of wristbands at Savage Isle. I have worn them all before. All except for red. Nobody wants a red wristband. Upon admittance, everyone is given the standard white, and after a period of about twenty-four to forty-eight hours on semi-restricted status, they're usually granted a yellow wristband that comes with very few restrictions. After yellow comes green. Green means go. Stay up late, visit home, drink caffeine, get out of Savage Isle.
"All right, kiddo," Nurse Dummel sighs, handing me a pair of ratty scrubs. "Stand up, take everything off, and put these on."
I wait a heartbeat to see if she's going to leave and give me some privacy, but she just stands there, watching me with a hawk's stare. I change quick and quiet and I think of Jason. When we kissed, his lips tasted like fresh spring water and hot tamales. I didn't have the courage to ask about him in the hospital. I feared his fate. Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing. Still, somewhere inside me the truth clanks like a ball and chain ... It's not possible he made it out of the fire alive. I ignore it. Denial is kinder, more gentle. Uninvited thoughts of Cellie pop into my mind, but I push them away. I refuse to waste worry on my twin. Worry is lost on her.
When I finish putting on the scrubs, I throw my hoodie back on, hoping the nurse will let me keep it. I don't like being cold. She doesn't notice, or pretends not to, and gestures toward my shoes. "All right, shoelaces have to come off. This your bag?" She points to the corner of the room where a lavender duffel sits on the floor. It's worn and dirty, the color almost bleached to gray.
I pull my sneakers off and de-thread the laces. The nurse shakes her head a little as she slips on a pair of latex gloves. She picks up my bag and places it on the exam table. In a detached and efficient manner she sorts through my things. A couple of pairs of pants, some shirts, an iPod, toothbrush, toothpaste, some floss, and origami paper, all my worldly possessions.
She holds the origami paper up and raises her eyebrows. I mirror her look, resisting the urge to stick out my tongue like a petulant child and snatch the sheets from her fingers. They were a gift, a gentle reminder to Cellie and me that we weren't always alone. I don't want Nurse Dummel's greasy fingerprints all over them. When she sets them aside, I'm relieved. "You're good to go," she says. "You can pack up everything except these." Nurse Dummel confiscates my toothbrush, floss, clothes, and headphones and dumps them into a plastic bag. I quickly tally the number of items left in my possession — an iPod that's useless without the headphones, some toothpaste, just as useless without the brush, and my origami paper. Nurse Dummel opens the door and gestures for me to follow her. I gather my three remaining possessions and place them in the lavender duffel bag, careful not to accidentally crease any of the origami paper.
Outside the exam room a big guy with a mullet stands guard. He follows us as we walk down a hallway that quickly turns into another. A sterile maze. We pass a sign that says ADMITTANCE WARD C, then another that says PATIENTS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT. He swipes a badge over a black box and the doors swing open. I shift my duffel bag uneasily. There's a familiar rush of anxiety as we come to a second set of doors. Once again the guy with the mullet swipes a card over a black box and the doors seem to magically swing open. As soon as I step over the threshold, they swing shut behind me with a soft clink.
The place looks the same as when I left it, like something ate the 1970s and then threw up all the furniture here. We're in the common area, the coed area. There's a box TV with two channels, one with good reception. We used to have a DVD player for movies, but some kid peed on it and it shorted out. There are a couple of couches with pillows that look like they're frowning all the time, some cracked green leather chairs, a few imitation wood tables, and steel mesh on all the windows. I think about the time I visited the zoo as a kid, pressed my face between the steel bars of the polar bear cage, and watched the animals pace. Their padded feet were silent and had worn huge, gaping tracks in the dirt. How many months would it take to make such deep grooves? My toes curl in my laceless shoes. The common area is empty, probably because it's close to dinnertime. The smell of beef stroganoff permeates the air.
"Donny will take your bag to your room," Nurse Dummel says. I shrug the duffel off my shoulder and hand it over to the tech. He takes it from me, narrowly avoiding skin-to-skin contact.
The nurse keeps walking and I hurry to keep pace with her long strides. The C ward is shaped like a circle with three arms, the common area at its center. Two of the arms are long hallways that stretch into dead ends — they're all patient rooms. One hallway is for boys, the other for girls. The third hallway houses the cafeteria, the recreation room (where you can glue shells onto wooden boards or ride one of three exercise bikes), classrooms, doctors' offices, and group therapy rooms. The nurse leads me down the third hallway toward the doctors' offices. She pauses in front of a plastic chair just outside a door across from the cafeteria.
"Wait here," she says. She knocks on the door and then enters.
I look at the chair. Its cracked seat looks uninviting and painful. I jam my hands into my hoodie pockets and lean against the wall.
I've just begun to chew the inside of my cheek when there's a buzz, followed by the cafeteria doors swinging open. A steady stream of teens emerges. Their gaits are sluggish and their gazes downcast, like they're afraid to make eye contact. Cellie used to tell me they were like jellyfish. Overmedicated jellyfish. Gelatinous balls whose touch is poison and who always have to move, because if you stop moving, you're dead. Most of them I don't recognize. Which isn't a surprise. Savage Isle is state funded, so patients are encouraged to stay for as little time as possible. Plus, my last stay here with Cellie was short — cut short, I should say. Barely enough time to make friends or, in Cellie's case, enemies. I study the new crop of patients as they exit the cafeteria. A second buzzer sounds and the jellyfish move a little quicker (a change in the tide), off to the common area or rec room for "free" time. The irony is not lost on me.
The last patient out is a boy. A boy with a measured, unhurried walk. A walk that screams the opposite of jellyfish. He wears one of those baseball hats with no logo, just solid black. He's definitely new. I would've remembered him for sure. His head is bowed, so I can't see his face. Two techs follow close behind him.
"Move it along, Chase," one of them says.
He doesn't turn around. His only acknowledgment is a slight tilt that brings his head up and makes his eyes level with mine. They are blue, the kind of blue that is so light it makes his face look pale. A long scar runs down his left cheek. From a razorblade? A knife? Something sharp that can cut deep. Despite the scar, he's not bad looking. If he weren't so banged up, he would be out-of-this-world hot. If anything, the gash tempers his beauty, makes him seem real and maybe a little dangerous. He wears a thin T-shirt and jeans that ride low. He's noticed me staring at him. His eyes crinkle at the corners. He laughs, low and sexy, takes off his baseball hat, and smoothes a hand over his mussed blond hair.
My cheeks grow hot with embarrassment, and the guilt I feel is almost as immediate as my body's response. For one split second I forget about Jason's cinnamon breath, the curve of his smile, and the touch of his callused fingers. All because of this stranger whose eyes make me feel all lit up inside. I bite the inside of my cheek, hard. The boy passes me, leaving behind the scent of clean laundry.
The door beside me opens and the nurse reappears.
"All right, Alice, the doctor will see you now."
I push off the wall, keeping my eyes on the boy's retreating back. Just as I'm about to enter the office, he stops, glances over his shoulder, and smiles at me. Intimately. Like he's happy to see me. Like I've just made his day. He smiles as if he knows me. And I get an odd sense of déjà vu. (Jason would say it was a glitch in the matrix.) I can't seem to shake the feeling that he actually looks familiar. That I've seen his face before. That I know him, too.
The doctor's office is cluttered. Shelves and file cabinets, bursting with books and stacks of paper, line the walls. It's like I've been sucked into a vortex and I'm standing in Dumbledore's office. I wish. I also wish I didn't know this office so well. But I do. Dr. Goodman stands in the middle of the room. He's young, with thin wire-rimmed glasses. I always thought he looked like the kind of guy who doesn't own a TV. He holds a thick file between his pasty hands. My file.
"Hello, Alice," he says. He waits, as if he expects me to say something. I don't know why he would, based on our past history of awkward, semi-silent therapy sessions. "It's nice to see you again." He crosses the room and extends a hand for me to shake.
I look down at his open palm and my hands twitch inside the pockets of my hoodie. I like the way the fleece lining feels, soft like a teddy bear. I remove a hand, shake his, and then quickly stuff mine back in my sweatshirt.
"Please, have a seat," he says, motioning to an armchair. He addresses the nurse, who hovers in the doorway. "I think we can take it from here, Ms. Dummel."
Nurse Dummel puckers her lips. I wonder if she knows that her face looks like an asshole when she does that. She gives me a long, lingering gaze before nodding her head. "All right, Dr. Goodman. Donny'll be coming back to escort her to her room. He'll be right outside the door if you need him."
"I'm sure we'll be fine," Doc says. The nurse gives me one more assessing glance, like I'm a downed power line throwing off sparks, then leaves, shutting the door behind her.
I settle into the chair and Doc sits across from me. A heavy silence stretches between us. Doc crosses his legs, adjusts his tie, clears his throat. He picks up a yellow legal pad and a pen from the table next to his chair. "I'm happy to see you, Alice. It looks as though you're recovering well." I wait for him to get to the point. Usually our meetings follow an agenda. Sharing feelings. Exposing secrets. Talking about the past.
"Do you know why you're here, Alice? Do you know why you've been returned to the hospital?"
Images surface. Pictures of my great escape with Jason. Spirals of stairs. Murky water. A red barn at night. But the memory is like water slipping through my fist. My voice is quiet as I speak. "There was a fire."
Doc jots something down. "Tell me about that night, Alice. The night you left the hospital."
I knot my fingers in my lap and stare down at them, still unable to meet Doc's eyes. After a while, my gaze shifts toward the window. Outside, the sky is overcast and gray. A thick fog rolls in behind the steel mesh and it's hard to see anything beyond the hospital grounds. "How come it's always so foggy here?"
The doc glances out the window. "It's because we're so close to a lake. We're in a convergence zone. Does the fog disturb you?"
Why does he have to answer every question with a question? I shrug a shoulder. "No, it doesn't disturb me. I just think it's weird, you know? If we can't see anything but the fog, how do we know we exist beyond it?" He chuckles, and for once, his hand doesn't move to scribble on the yellow notepad. "That's very philosophical of you, Alice. Perhaps you should walk through it and see what comes out the other side."
I know what's on the other side of that fog. It's water, deep gray water that makes your bones shake and your lips turn blue. I know because Jason and I swam across it. He pulled me to shore and covered my shivering body with his.
"Alice, are you listening?"
"I'm sorry. What were you saying?"
"I was asking you to tell me about the fire." Doc taps the pen against the notepad.
Maybe it's an act of mercy, this lapse in my memory. Maybe my brain doesn't want me to find out what happened. It's rejecting the possibility that my sister, my own blood, could do this to me — to Jason. Too bad I don't need my head to tell me what my heart already knows. "I don't remember," I say.
Doc shuffles some papers around and brings my file to the top. He opens it. "I have the police report here from that night." I stare at my left hand, the one without the burn. I study the bitten-down tips of my nails and the worn cuticles. Cellie used to tell me that the white parts underneath the nail were lies. When she thought I wasn't telling the truth, she'd grab my hands, inspect my nail beds, and claim that the white part had spread. Then she'd accuse me of things. Of keeping secrets. Of wanting to hurt her. Of loving Jason more. "Was Celia with you that night?" Doc asks.
"What does your report say?"
He glances at the paperwork. "It says she was."
I blink and see an image of my twisted twin. The memory comes screaming back. She's standing over Jason and me while the fire blazes around us, the look on her face a cross between pity and revulsion. I feel a million things in that moment. Bad things. Hateful things. All directed at my sister.
Doc uncrosses his legs and leans forward, his nose brushing up against my personal bubble. I press myself back into the armchair. His breath smells like old coffee, bitter and stale. "Do you know why you're here, Alice?"
I shake my head. All I can think of is Cellie. Cellie and Jason. The vision shifts and there's only smoke. I can't see Jason but I can feel him. His hands touch my face and he whispers something to me, but the words don't compute. "Jason."
Excerpted from "We'll Never Be Apart"
Copyright © 2015 Emiko Jean.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Girls' Wing,
Razorblades and Cigarette Burns,
The Quiet Room,
The Doctor's Office,
Hip-hop and Happiness,
Mates for Life,
The Perfect Plan,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I work nights,so I need things that keep me interested to stay awake. This one sure did!! From the first page to the last had me on the edge of my seat to see what would happen next! Finished it in a few hours now I'm having a hard time finding anything as good to read!
I loved this book. The characters were complex and it was beautifully writen.
it was a good book not great . I actually like the journal inputs more . I would read a book about Celia, a very interesting character that i have never read about in books. THE PLOT twist at the end was unexpected that i had to go back into the book to see how i had missed it . The middle of the book was abit of drag I almost stopped reading but then i was expecting something big to happen but never did .I feel there was nothing major exciting during the parts that where not in the journal section .
This book has touched me. This story has taught me that you never know the harsh realities that another has lived through. With that thought, always be kind.
I’ve read the book twice now. Definitely a good reread.
I was hesitant to read this at first because it was outside my normal reading genres. I gave it a try though, and boy am I glad I did. It grabbed me with interesting characters that I wanted to know more about. The story seamlessly brought both the past and present together without confusion and the ending was a twisted stunner. The book had me so engrossed I almost forgot to pick up my son from the bus. I hope to read more from this author
This was a wonderful book that kept me intrigued until the very last page. I was a little upset when i finished the book just because it meant that it was over. One of the best books I have ever read. Nothing can compare to it. And I have tried looking for something that could fill the hole, but I've come to the conclusion that nothing will.
It's an amazing book
Good read, would recommend
We’ll Never Be Apart is a taught psychological thriller for young adults, like an age-appropriate Gillian Flynn tale. Protagonist Alice is a mental patient in an atmospheric Oregon mental facility for young people. There, she flounders, her emotional state often polarizing. Does she want to get better and try to live a normal life outside the facility, or does she succumb to her guilt and fear and allow herself to remain incapable of functioning as she should? This guilt is rooted in survival. She should rightly be dead, because her twin sister Cellie tried to burn her alive in the same barn fire that killed Alice’s boyfriend Jason. Cellie is a pyromaniac and a murderer intent on keeping Alice dependent on their twin bond for the rest of their lives. The story is told through present-day narration by Alice in the facility, with memories of Alice’s very recent past revolving around the barn burning and Jason’s death, and Cellie’s jealousy which led her to arson. There are flashbacks between each present-day chapter, reflecting on Alice and Cellie’s childhood which was traumatic to say the least, and clearly explains how Alice ends up in the mental facility. At the heart of all these components is a big twist which is very carefully set up. It will either stun readers in a good way, where surprise is justified since there would be no question of the author’s ability to feed tiny clues to this twist throughout. Or…readers will see the twist coming relatively early on. I don’t think the ending would be any less satisfying either way, and readers familiar with thrillers would be much more likely to correctly follow the clues. Any ability to anticipate the ending does not hurt the story or the densely layered characters who shine in a dark tale.
If only….if only the rest of the novel could have been like the beginning chapters, I would have loved this novel but unfortunately it wasn’t. I loved the prologue and I loved how the story was set up but then the story just flat-lined for me. I don’t want to sound harsh but I realized Alice wants to kill her identical twin, so there is no need to keep telling me this throughout the novel. I was set up for an intense ride, suspense was in the air, the girls were back inside the walls of the Oregon State Mental Hospital and Alice had just heard about the ramifications of the barn fire, she had just survived. I had some background knowledge about the two girls, I knew how they earned the name “pyromaniac twins” and now Alice had met Chase, another residence of the hospital. So what happened? In my world, nothing happened, as the book got boring and slowed down for me. The novel was drawing itself out and it was a shame. I had such high hopes. Perhaps this book might do something for you, though.
We'll Never Be Apart starts off hot - literally. We start the story from Cellie's point of view as she sets the fire that kills her sister's boyfriend and almost herself and Alice. We're then given the rest of the story for Alice's perspective. Alice doesn't remember anything about the fire other than Cellie set it and Jason died. And now she's ready for revenge. As a form of recovery, Alice's doctor has given her a journal to record her memories in. She's to start from her earliest memory and go from there in hopes of gaining her memory back. I thought this to be a very interesting narration technique. They're like flashbacks, but not because Alice is currently writing them in her journal. And since she's writing them down, we get to see her reactions to her memories as she is regaining them. While it's all told from Alice's point of view, her journal writing allowed for readers to get a feel for Cellie and Jason, while getting a deeper look into Alice's past. Alice and Cellie didn't have the best childhood and we see how that shaped their future and got them to the point in their lives that they're at now. The characters are well done and kept at a minimum. Aside from Alice (and her journal versions of Callie and Jason) we have her roommate, Amelia; fellow patient, Chase; her social worker, Sara; a few other patients and hospital staff. By keeping the supporting characters to a minimum, Emiko can truly focus on Alice, her mental state, and the plot. I don't think I would categorize this is a "psychological thriller" because there weren't moments where I was confused and desperate to know what was going on, nor was it fast paced. However, that being said, I did find myself wrapped up in this story. I read it in a day because part of me had to know if Alice was going to get Cellie (they're in different blocks with Cellie being in the most guarded and secluded) and if she was really going to get her revenge. There are parts of the story that are a bit underdeveloped, but overall Emiko's writing is very well done. We'll Never Be Apart is Emiko's debut book and while it does have some issues (luckily nothing major) it also has some great strengths. All in all I enjoyed this story and I look forward to reading more from Emiko.
3.5 Stars While predictable, We'll Never Be Apart will mess with your mind and fill you with unease. Plot: We'll Never Be Apart opens with Cellie, setting the fateful fire that she hopes will kill her sister and her sister's boyfriend. To Cellie's utter disappointment, Alice survives and is rushed to an institute for troubled teens. At the institute, Alice makes it her mission to confront Cellie about what she has done, but her journal entries begin to show that she may not have all her facts in order. You, the reader, already guessed the twist. I know you did, because you're a smart cookie. But the twist isn't the most important element in We'll Never Be Apart, it's the characters. Jean's storytelling made this novel devourable and 100% engulfing. Each chapter is sandwiched with a journal entry from Alice's past that shows Alice's and Celli's childhood and how it shaped them as individuals. The pacing kept me engaged and always questioning what I knew to be real. Characters: Alice did not have it easy as a child. She and her sister only had each other throughout their childhood, and it's clear that their relationship is very toxic. This toxicity attracts even more unsavory individuals into the fold until Alice and Cellie both face their breaking points. I really enjoyed how Jean unraveled the characters, it isn't until we reach the end of Alice's journal entries that we realize how dangerous and destructive some forces are. World Building: We'll Never Be Apart shows an ugly side that is sometimes hard to stomach. The people and the environments are not conducive for growing children. I applaud Emiko Jean for having an environment that directly influences the characters. Short N Sweet: We'll Never Be Apart isn't what I would call unique, but it's storytelling and character development is something that should not be missed.
I enjoyed this book and the feeling of tension that was built throughout it. With much of the plot happening in a mental hospital, I knew something was up, but I didn't guess the plot twist early. The characters were super interesting!