Book Review: No One Ever Asked

No One Ever Asked, by Katie Ganshert

Publication: WaterBrook; April 3, 2018


no one everAbout the book: Challenging perceptions of discrimination and prejudice, this emotionally resonant drama for readers of Lisa Wingate and Jodi Picoult explores three different women navigating challenges in a changing school district–and in their lives.

When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray–the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser–faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones–the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge’s top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she’s stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as “this” or “that”, when such complexity exists in each person?

My Review:

So this is a challenging book to review. The premise of the novel is that a school district loses accreditation, therefore, students from another district are going to be brought into the uber-fabulous Crystal Ridge district. The parents of the students in the Crystal Ridge district are not happy about this integration, and even those that would swear up and down they don’t have a racist bone in their bodies, soon have to face their inner-demons and confront how their actions are affecting their children. 

There are several main characters in No One Ever Asked. Camille Gray is the “perfect” housewife and PTA mom, parent to 3 children and married to Neil. Then there is Jen. Jen and her husband Nick have recently adopted a young girl from Liberia named Jubilee. Another prominent character is Anaya, a first-year teacher to the Crystal Ridge district and sister of a student attending high school in the district. 

To put it simply, all three of these very different women have some serious issues. Camille’s marriage isn’t what she thought, her children are not what she thought, and she learns a lot about the impact of her own actions, although she feels that she means no harm. Jen is trying to fit into this picture-perfect community but struggles with her Liberian-born daughter and her emotional outbursts. Anaya is trying to make a difference and ease racial tensions in her new school district but refuses to acknowledge her own actions that can be perceived as judgemental. 

A prominent theme throughout this novel relates to a common phrase, “out of the mouths of babes.” Despite how clever and mysterious us parents think we are, our children see us, they hear us, and they pick up on our opinions, reactions, etc. Even worse, they will adopt and verbalize our opinions, because we’re their parents and we must be right. Right?? Both Camille and Anaya were guilty in this novel of “do as I say, not as I do” pertaining to race relations, although it took a lot for them to realize that. And poor Jen was just struggling to stay afloat being a white couple with a Liberian daughter, that also was really struggling with her new family and new life. Jen was my favorite character, especially because of her raw honesty. Not only did she question her parenting skills, she had times that she questioned her love for her adopted child. Sure, she was overwhelmed, exhausted, etc., yet the author showed us what she thought and felt, despite it being such taboo feelings from a mother. 

This novel touches on sexual harassment, guns, infidelity, illness, injuries, and strains between parents and children (especially adult children and their parents). Let me forewarn you that this is not a happy story by any means. There are numerous moments that I can best describe as uncomfortable. But they are uncomfortable because Katie Ganshert did not sugar-coat anything. She tossed out all of the things no one wants to acknowledge or discuss and forced her characters to look them in the eye, therefore, making her readers also acknowledge these issues. 

I don’t think Ganshert had any great political or sociological agenda with this novel, but it will certainly make you think. You may feel proud of yourself in ways and in some other ways, you may cringe a little as you see catch glimpses of yourself or your own family. Nevertheless, the writing is exquisite and this is an important book to read.

*Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!


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