Title: That Night
Author: Chevy Stevens
Series: No series
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Published: June 17th, 2014
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)
The summary of That Night from Goodreads:
They said she was a murderer.
They said she killed her sister.
But they lied.
As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.
Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.
Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.
But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.
I couldn’t put this book down. It was easy enough to grab my attention. I connected right away to Toni. I felt her frustrations and her pain. Even though I had a guess about the end of the novel, I was still completely enthralled.
I really felt for Toni. By breaking the story up into pieces, we learn about her life before and after the murder of her sister. Before the murder, Toni is a teenager who doesn’t feel like she fits anywhere but with her boyfriend Ryan. Girls at school bully her. Her mother makes her feel like who she is isn’t good enough. Her father stands by her, but won’t speak against her mother. Her sister has become someone she doesn’t recognize anymore. Only with Ryan does she feel important and valued.
After the murder, she’s faced with people who are quick to judge, a prison system where everyone must fend for themselves, and a search for the truth that won’t bring back her sister but could give her her life back.
I think what I liked most about Toni is her resilience. Not only is she blamed for her sister’s murder, she’s found guilty and must face years in prison for it. She’s never really allowed the proper time to grieve for her sister. Yet she accepts, after many years, what happened and has decided she’s not going to let it make her into a bad person. She doesn’t really forgive the people who put her in prison, but she makes peace with the situation and decides to live because she still has a life.
The details of the murder and the circumstances surrounding it are just unclear enough to create some mystery. It’s clear that Toni didn’t do it, but everything else is a bit of an unknown. The fact that they live in a small town means people think they know everything, but instead it just means everyone knows how to hide their secrets. The other thing about a small town is that people think they understand people just based on how they behave or look. So Toni and her boyfriend Ryan stand out because they don’t behave like people want them to. So when suspicion falls on them, their personalities make them easy scapegoats.
I also think the small town aspect makes the idea that the trial was messed with a little more believable. Because certain people were witnesses at the trial, the fact that those people were thought highly of gave weight to their testimony. While I’d like to believe the justice system would be able to keep witnesses from false testimony, I also don’t believe it’s a perfect system and the characters take advantage of those imperfections.
I think there were some elements that didn’t really fit with the rest of the novel. It wasn’t like they were distracting, but they just didn’t seem as important as other details. I could see why there were included, but I also felt like they weren’t entirely necessary to the plot. Most of this had to do with prison scenes.
If you like Chevy Stevens, you’ll probably enjoy this book. It’s easy to tell it’s her style and I found it as gripping as the other books of her’s I’ve read. I also think if you like a murder mystery that’s more focused on the characters than the act, this would be a good book.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.