by Chevy Stevens
Summary: 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.
Source: I purchased a paperback
I picked up That Night on a whim because I noticed that it wasn’t written to a psychologist and it wasn’t ABOUT said psychologist, which led to believe this would be a little more unique than her other books, but still a compelling contemporary mystery. And it was.
That Night was about an event that ended up sending Toni and her high school boyfriend, Ryan, to prison for the murder of her sister. It bounced back and forth between time frames: before that night, Toni in prison, Toni on parole (the present), and the small sliver of time after the murder and before Toni was put away. We kept getting the pieces and Toni’s point of view throughout all of the various times.
I’m a bit conflicted because I tore through the book quickly. I wanted to see what happened and the agony was killing me. Which is great, right? But the book was LONG. And even though a lot of what I got was important to the building up of the characters, the setting, and Toni’s motives, there was no reason it should have been so long and drawn out. My head was screaming JUST TELL ME WHAT REALLY HAPPENED, OMG! Tension and anticipation is great, but the author really overdid it with this book and it got to be too much.
It was obvious Toni didn’t kill her sister. I knew that from the beginning. I knew she was somehow framed and I knew who lied, but not necessarily what the truth was. I knew I was supposed to feel for Toni and her circumstances because somehow, she was labeled as troubled and it was so easy for her to just walk right into it. But I got so much of Toni that I started to nitpick.
As a teenager, Toni was a troublemaker. She smoked pot, she dated a bad boy she loved with all of her heart, she copped an attitude, and her parents blamed a lot on her. Her sister was always good, got good grades, stayed out of trouble, and was generally opposite. But Nicole started to slip a little bit. Toni noticed this. Here’s the thing, though. It was only when Toni was being confronted by her parents for something that she’d ever really bring up how weird Nicole was acting. It seemed like such a conspiracy.. How could they just blame Toni for things Nicole was doing? But Toni lied ALL THE TIME about what she did, so it just looked like she was trying to shift the blame. She never once approached her parents on a normal day to talk about Nicole. It was maddening because the reader knew what Toni did and didn’t actually do, but she dug that hole herself so many times by being the girl who cried wolf and lied too much to be believed. I mean, her mom was kind of awful, but Toni only made it worse.
Adult Toni didn’t grow up at all, which I think is kind of the point because people don’t grow in prison where the rules for survival are based on dominance and distrust of authority. She stayed the same way, always lying and walking into trouble without seeming to know why. When inmates caused her problems, she either tried to stay under the radar or she got into a fight because it’s not a thing to alert authorities to problems or you’re known as a rat. It did not help someone like Toni. When she got out, she was once again put into situations where she didn’t alert her parole officer, boss, ANYONE about stuff until after it bit her in the butt and made her look bad. Meanwhile, the reader knew that she was being set up, people were lying, and that Toni did nothing wrong. But she just didn’t handle her situation like adults would and constantly ending up walking right into trouble.
Eventually, at the very freaking end, we were able to unearth what actually happened the night Nicole died. It seemed like she was making some progress at being an adult, too, which was good, but it took her ages.
I liked the book and the story, but it was also incredibly frustrating. It was maddening to watch Toni walk herself blindly into trouble. It was agonizing to wait forever for any kind of closure as to what happened. But the story was great, with compelling characters and a nice twist, so I can’t knock it completely. It’s worth the read if you can prepare yourself to read Toni’s point of view.