Never Saw You Coming
by Erin Hahn
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Number of Pages: 320
Source: NetGalley ARC
Ages 13 and up
CW: discussions of self-harm and suicide
Raised by conservative parents, 18-year-old Meg Hennessey just found out her entire childhood was a lie. Instead of taking a gap year before college to find herself, she ends up traveling north to meet what’s left of the family she never knew existed.
While there, she meets Micah Allen, a former pastor’s kid whose dad ended up in prison, leaving Micah with his own complicated relationship about the church. The clock is ticking on Pastor Allen’s probation hearing and Micah, now 19, feels the pressure to forgive – even when he can’t possibly forget.
As Meg and Micah grow closer, they are confronted with the heavy flutterings of first love and all the complications it brings. Together, they must navigate the sometimes-painful process of cutting ties with childhood beliefs as they build toward something truer and straight from the heart.
In Erin Hahn’s Never Saw You Coming, sometimes it takes a leap of faith to find yourself.
There are a few things about this book I want to talk about before getting to the meat of the story. If you read More Than Maybe, this story is about the best friend from that story. You absolutely do not need to read that one to read this one. I don’t believe it’s even being marketed as a series. But if you loved Meg in that book, you get see her go on a heartbreaking and joyful journey in this one. I mention this because, as someone who did not grow up in a church culture, I wasn’t sure if I’d “get” this story. If it would impact me the way it would someone else. I was curious about what the author had to say since I follow her on social media and know this is a story that is very dear to her heart. Knowing it was Meg’s story pushed me the rest of the way to wanting to read this. I actually got more from this story, in a way that I found surprising, than I thought I would.
It doesn’t seem as though Meg ever really thought of herself as a strong person, per se. But from the moment she learns her mom’s secret I think she shows a ton of strength and tenacity. For someone who was homeschooled and didn’t have a lot of interactions outside of her church circle, it took a lot of bravery and grit for her to pack it up and go off on her own in such an unsanctioned way. While Meg may have lost faith in her church and the teachings of her church, she never lost faith in God. So, even though she’s having a crisis of faith, it’s not faith in her religion that’s the problem. It’s faith in people.
“…nothing can get between me and my God. Not even the church.”
~ Meg Hennessey
Micah, more so even than Meg, has lost his faith in the people of his church. With good reason. His relationship with religion is very different than it was just 5 years ago. Not bad, just different. He’s been looking in from the outside for long enough now to understand what Meg is feeling and to see the problems with the way the church structures things. Meg and Micah meet at the exact right time for both of them. They are both so strong, but it’s nice to have someone to help hold you up in the bad times. Especially someone who understands the world you grew up in and are now not so sure about.
As I said, I didn’t grow up with organized religion. My parents didn’t hold any of their kids back from attending church, and it could be any church we wanted to try out. But we didn’t attend as a family and we didn’t belong to any congregation. I think of my family as quite spiritual in many ways, but not religious. I had many friends in school who were very into their church and I will admit sometimes I felt jealous. I was jealous of the perceived camaraderie and the total and absolute faith I felt they had. That perception made me think they lived easy and beautiful lives. There were many things I didn’t understand and didn’t like, such as the way they looked down on young women who were doing nothing wrong or, at the very least, nothing different than the young men. I really didn’t like how judgmental many of those church-going people were. So, I was never jealous enough to actually want to join on any church group on any sort of recurring basis. This story really brought all that back up for me. I had truly forgotten how I had those feelings. It helped me to see that we all have our own pains and confusions. I’ve seen many of these same young people grow up to be very well-adjusted individuals, but I’ve seen the same ratio (if not more) have major life issues just as us non church goers have had. I have always felt there is no right or wrong in the church or no church issue, as long as you’re a truly good person. This story really helped hammer that home even more for me.
“I’m not a church kid, Micah. I can’t pretend to understand this compulsion you guys have to hide your humanity at the risk of appearing human.”
~ Vada Carsewell
There is a lot that is dealt with in this book and I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s no secret that a huge issue in the story has to do with purity, as the author herself has been posting quotes from the book that deal with that. The word “purity” feels very church specific to me. Yet the feelings and experiences Meg has with this issue throughout the book are universal to all young girls to a certain extent. A cis female teenager not raised in the church will not have the same level of shame for a heavy make out session, but she will still often be shamed and blamed by others if word gets out. As though she did something wrong and her partner did not. (Not to mention teens who are not cis and straight!)
“The truth is, the only time churches are worried about modesty and purity is when it comes to their teenage girls.”
~ Micah Allen
Listen, this is a beautiful and brutal story that I think young and old can get something out of. Church goers, former church goers, never church goers. There is a universal message for us all. There is love for us all.
**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**