Never Say Die, by Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider reread #10)

“I am happy,” Alex said. He wondered if he had convinced Sabina. He certainly hadn’t convinced himself.

We are finally caught up! And we’re actually out of order here. Release order would be Russian Roulette next, then Secret Weapon ready for NIGHTSHADE. But I’m not doing that, because I wanted to read Alex’s whole story first, and because I’m not emotionally prepared for Russian Roulette and never will be. It’s two weeks ’til Nightshade releases. Two weeks until GO TIME. I literally cannot wait.

Rating: 5 stars!

Alex Rider series so far:

Scorpia Rising was supposed to be the last book in the Alex Rider series – a series always due to end after Alex turned sixteen. As such, Scorpia Rising was dark. I talk about it in depth in my review of the last book (links all available at the bottom of this review, or by clicking here) but the intensity of that ‘final’ story left Alex in a dark and emotional place. Jack Starbright, the last person he had to turn to, is dead and Alex watched her car explode. He’s killed a part of himself by shooting his doppelganger Julius Grief, and his whole life has been uprooted. He left for America to start over with the Pleasure family, far from home and far from MI-6, and now that Mrs. Jones is in charge, they’ve sworn that they won’t call him.

The plot:

Alex is on a mission. Not the kind of missions he’s faced before. This time it’s personal, and he’s going to destroy Scorpia once and for all. After Scorpia Rising, Alex is living in San Francisco and trying to recover from the murder of his best friend Jack Starbright. Without Jack, Alex is lost and alone, up until he receives a cryptic email that is only three words long but is enough to convince Alex that Jack may be alive. He heads straight to Egypt to track her down. But Scorpia know Alex’s weakness, and they’re closer than he thinks on his hunt for the truth.

What did I think?

Never Say Die is a book that I’ll always be emotionally connected with. I think it’s pretty clear that the Alex Rider series was a huge part of my childhood, a huge part of my teenage years (shout out to 13 year old me and her Alex Rider fanfiction – I hope you never see the light of day again!) and it’s still a huge part of my adult life. When Never Say Die released in 2017, it had been six years since the ‘last’ Alex Rider book. I was in my final year of university, writing my dissertation and getting a full time job. And one day I was on Amazon and it popped up with ‘you may like’ and it was an Alex Rider title that I had never heard of, that was being released three months later. I genuinely screamed. Alex Rider, as I’ve talked about, has been my comfort reads, and it felt like destiny that I was getting another Alex Rider novel during the most stressful period of my entire educational life. And when I read it, it felt like coming home.

Ordinarily, the trope of ‘this character died but then miraculously might be fine’ as a plot point normally annoys me as a way to get characters invested in a story again but I’m going to let it slide because I do honestly believe it’s the only thing in the world that would have brought Alex back into espionage at this point in his incredibly traumatic young life. (Incredibly traumatic, Anthony Horowitz please leave the boy alone). I’m also letting it slide because honestly I think it was done really well. If everything had immediately been resolved within one chapter, I would have been furious, instead we’re drawn into Alex’s hope and his exploration as he tries to find out if Jack is alive or whether he’s being drawn into a trap.

The biggest thing that stood out to me in Never Say Die is the incredible depression rep. Alex is weeks out from losing the last parental figure he had, his whole life as been uprooted and he’s been taken across the pond to America to his new life. Everything is different and that would be hard enough if he wasn’t buried in grief. The way it’s portrayed felt very real to me. Alex was lying to everyone to try and ‘prove’ that he was recovering, and his lack of interest in homework, school and his social life was approached in a very honest and fair way. It just felt very true to Alex’s grief, but also to the feeling of being unmoored that would come from a teenager having a year of his life disrupted and endangered, and then feeling responsible for the death of his caregiver. Considering this book is for young teens, I think it was very deftly done.

The plot itself is brilliant. As soon as I started re-reading it I kept remembering amazing things that were coming up and it lived up to my memories. I was starting to hit burn out a little with the series, and this entry really pulled it all back. I loved it, and I’m hyped all over again for Nightshade! Next week it’s me sobbing over Yassen Gregorovich hours!


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