“Just what did God look like when he came down from heaven and asked you to be his judge and jury?”from Never Saw You Coming
September 7, 2021
In Erin Hahn’s Never Saw You Coming, sometimes it takes a leap of faith to find yourself.
Eighteen-year-old Meg Hennessey just found out her entire childhood was a lie. So 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 – all while questioning the ideals she grew up with.
While there, she meets Micah Allen, a former pastor’s kid whose dad ended up in prison, leaving Micah with his own complicated relationship with faith. The clock is ticking on his 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 More Than Maybe, we met Vada’s best friend, Meg, a home-schooled, church-going girl. In Never Saw You Coming, we come into Meg’s life as her world has suddenly gone off-kilter. Everything she thought she knew about her life may be wrong and she knows she has to get away, go someplace where she can gather herself and find out maybe who she really is. She goes to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where she meets Micah. And nothing will ever be the same.
I’m going to shake things up a little with this review due to my initial reaction and the reaction of other reviewers of Erin Hahn’s Never Saw You Coming. First off, this is a YA novel and none of the reviewers who’ve glowered over this novel (me included) are in that age group. As reviewers and readers we’ve come to this novel from whatever our current place is in life: 20’s, 30’s, older and with that our prejudices or sensitivity toward religion or church or even those who we feel talk out of turn regarding the church experience because no one should ever speak badly about the church. But none of us are the audience to whom this novel is directed. Too often, we adults read YA and children’s novels as if we are the audience when we most definitely aren’t. If you’ve even forgotten what it was to be a questioning child or teenager, you’re even further removed from being that audience. I think any adult reader/reviewer of YA books needs to remind themselves over and over again that they are not the intended audience.
For this book, I can almost guarantee who most of us reviewers are not: a teenage church kid.
Older teenage YA readers tend to be more open to subject matter and ideas than us old fogies. That’s one of the glorious things of being an older teenager, being able to explore ideas and thoughts, many of which are not those that have been handed down to us from our parents and whomever. That’s one of the things that makes the college experience so, so wonderful. The expansion of minds. If we are lucky, we take everything we learned prior to college and we add unto it, accepting and rejecting ideas as we realize that they don’t fit for us.
So what does any of this have to do with Never Saw You Coming? Well many of us didn’t expect religion to be as much a part of this novel as it was. The blurb offers a very scant mention of religion while this novel is filled with it. While not mentioning this fact will bring more readers, it may also lead to unhappy reviews. And, because of those initial impressions many readers might not find their way to the rather excellent story that actually exists in these pages.
Meg is almost a complete innocent who suddenly begins experiencing emotions and events that she has always been told are wrong, sinful. But she’s opening up, discovering herself, falling in love, becoming a new, happy person. It’s like watching a butterfly evolve.
Micah is a great guy who’s had to deal with a rough situation: the fallout from his pastor-father’s mistakes. He’s also had to deal with the hypocrisy of a community that should have shown kindness but instead showed judgment.
He and Meg come from a similar background, but while he’s had time to see the Church for what it is, she hasn’t totally.
Hahn’s writing is very good as she tells a story of family and church dynamics, expectation and judgment and hypocrisy, and a world that should be based on love but begins to feel rather cultish the more one delves into it. In one fantastic scene, she also shows us that she could probably be a really good adventure writer if the desire should ever take her.
Because I had a hard time dealing with my own knee-jerk reaction to the level of religion broadcast on the pages, I almost set the book aside. I’m glad that I didn’t since I would have missed this really marvelous story of love and acceptance. I do wish that the publisher had given more indication of what was on the pages, but then, would I have read it? The sad fact, for me, is that I probably wouldn’t have and I would have never experienced a story that is heartfelt and emotionally true.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
4 out of 5 butterflies