Published: March 1, 2010
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.
“In the town of Campbell River, Toni has a rough home life; she can’t wait for high school graduation to escape her mother’s angry disapproval.
Ryan’s home is worse, his father an alcoholic abuser.
Together, however, Toni and Ryan make the broken pieces fit. In school, Toni runs afoul of mean girls Shauna, Rachel, Kim and Cathy, who harass her and spread ugly rumors. Toni has an escape planned—a post-graduation apartment with Ryan—but then her younger sister, Nicole, her mother’s favorite, joins Shauna’s clique and starts dabbling in booze and boys and harassing Toni. It seems like kid stuff, until Nicole is bludgeoned to death.
Toni and Ryan immediately become suspects; they’re convicted of murder and sent to prison. Stevens’ masterful plot spins into evil with “teen girls turning on each other, the viciousness and pack mentality that can arise.” She writes from Toni’s point of view, shifting easily between past and present while delving into family tensions before the murder, then prison life, then back to Campbell River after Toni’s parole. Entirely believable, Toni evolves from a misunderstood, resentful and frightened teenager into an intelligent yet closed-off woman tempered by 15 years in prison.
The writing is crisp and the dialogue realistic as Toni speculates about possible suspects and motives, knowing all the while that finding the killer may reveal one of Campbell River’s ugliest secrets. Tension cranks to the breaking point when Cathy, now a drug-addled misfit, is murdered. Ryan and Toni become suspects again, but they realize it’s a sign that the conspiracy that jailed them has fractured.” Kirkus Review
Not my favorite of Chevy Stevens books, but still a good read.