Hardcover, 384 pages
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 in That Night by Chevy Stevens, the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.
That Night by Chevy Stevens is a highly recommended mystery/thriller.
Toni Murphy and her high school boyfriend, Ryan Walker, have been in prison since 1998 after being convicted of the murder of her younger sister, Nicole, a murder they did not commit. Toni's anger and bitterness have kept her going - and alive. "My sister was never coming home, and I was in prison. And then I found something I could grab on to, something I could feel with all my heart. I could feel anger. It rushed through my blood, hot and heavy and thick." Now she's going to be out on parole and trying to get on with her life.
As Toni says, "I was thirty-four now and had been in custody since I was eighteen, when Ryan and I were arrested for my sister’s murder. We’d been alone with her that night, but we hadn’t heard Nicole scream. We hadn’t heard anything. I wrapped my hand around my arm, squeezed hard. I’d spent almost half of my life behind bars for a crime I didn’t commit. The anger never really leaves you."
The narrative follows two different time periods, 1996 (to 1998) and today.
In the 90's Toni was a teen with a bit of a rebellious streak who had to be constantly vigilant in trying to avoid a pack of bullying mean girls lead by Shauna McKinney and followed by Rachel, Kim and Cathy. While her boyfriend Ryan often helped her avoid confrontations, she was still constantly tormented or physically assaulted by Shauna and the girls. When her younger sister is murdered it is these same girls that give the damning testimony which helps convict Toni and Ryan.
It's clear to Toni that something is going on with Nicole, something she is keeping secret from her parents. But Toni's parents are part of the problem too. Her mother clearly plays favorites, and Toni is not the favorite daughter. Her father doesn't want to incur his wife's ire or stand up to her. It all seems easier to simply blame Toni for everything.
Today Toni just wants to live a quiet life with her adopted shelter dog, but Ryan is also out and he wants to find a way to prove who really did murder Nicole. If she's going help Ryan it must be in secret, or they will both violate their parole and get sent back to prison.
Shauna and the mean girls in That Night are very, very conniving and aggressive bullies that rival the Tough women bullies Toni encounters in prison. I've always had a thing for stopping any bullying anywhere, anytime. It started when I was in grade school and that, my friends, was many years ago. I simply won't tolerate bullies. This could be why I feel so much support for Toni even when she is an annoying, angsty teen lacking in common sense. And, honestly, let's face it, most teens are lacking in common sense and make poor choices somewhere along the way.
The reviews for That Night are all over the place, which surprises me. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to the character of Toni, who is not an endearing teen. I think even more it could be because, even though there is a great twist to the final reveal, you really can make an educated guess almost immediately who is most likely guilty and the only question is how can Toni prove what happened that night.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of St. Martin's Press for review purposes.