You Never Know by Lilian Duval

By Ekta R. Garg

February 15, 2012

Rated: Bookmark it!

Life may take us by surprise, but if we make the right choices and persevere we may end up accomplishing our dreams after all.  In Lilian Duval’s solid novel, You Never Know, she offers readers this basic premise albeit in the wrong package.

Tobias Hillyer is 20 and an ambitious anthropology student.  He comes home for Christmas before embarking on a trip to the South America rain forests that promises to change his life and provide his career with the perfect launch pad.  During his trip home he gets the life change he’d anticipated but definitely not in the way he’d hoped: he and his family get into a car accident in which his parents die instantly and his prodigy artist brother suffers from a brain injury.  Riddled with the guilt of sitting behind the steering wheel at the time of the accident, Tobias—Toby to his brother, Simeon—makes the difficult decision to drop out of college and become his brother’s caretaker.

The back cover of the book offers the proposition that Toby wins the lottery and his life changes dramatically because of it.  But Toby lives so much life before (and after) winning the lottery that the back-cover synopsis actually builds up misdirected anticipation for readers.  Toby doesn’t actually win the lottery until halfway through the book.  Readers may become impatient for the lottery win, especially considering that in actuality the jackpot is just one of many challenges Toby faces.  Author Duval’s subtitle and back cover blurb create the wrong kind of mindset for a story that stands well enough on its own without needing the drama these tools would provide.

Marketing mishap notwithstanding, Duval’s story offers readers an enjoyable trip through Toby’s life.  The dialogue can get clunky at times, not sounding realistic in many places and resorting even to taking readers for granted by employing the “tell not show” method.  But for the most part, Duval gives readers a story that may ring true to their own lives: giving up one’s own goals and ambitions for the greater good of the family or life’s demands.  The narration may experience a few hiccups along the way, but Duval’s novel is especially fitting for our current economic times.

I highly recommend You Never Know with the disclaimer that readers should discount the back cover information and be prepared for a much larger story than what the back cover promises.  Keeping an open mind will allow readers to fully embrace Toby’s story and enjoy it that much more.


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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