I’m attempting to post every other day at the moment, so I’m hoping to sandwich university posts in between book reviews and the like. I was recommended this book by my mum when she had it on loan from the library and with high praise I delved right in.
Eighteen-year-old Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder of her younger sister. Seventeen years later, Toni’s out on parole and back in her hometown, but she’s struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Ryan is convinced he can uncover the truth; her mother still doesn’t believe Toni’s innocent; and the former school girls who made Toni’s life miserable may have darker secrets than anyone can imagine. Before Toni can move forward, she must take a terrifying step back to her past to find out the truth about that night…
The novel switches between Toni in 1996, still at school and madly in love with Ryan but constantly fighting with her mother, and Toni in 2013; struggling with her prison sentence and coming to terms with life outside. I really enjoyed the comparison between the two, as it wasn’t just modern-day Toni looking back on the events so you really felt like you were getting the whole picture.
I think the story has elements that everyone can resonate with; a group of bitchy girls making another’s life miserable; sibling rivalry; fighting with you parents; and fighting with your friends over a boy. However, modern day Toni resonated with me as well, the unfairness of her sentence and trial for a crime neither her nor Ryan committed really struck a chord with me which I was surprised at.
The relationship between Toni and her sister Nicole in 1996 is confusing. I have a younger brother, so I get sibling rivalry and competition in front of your parents, but Toni and Nicole’s relationship with both each other and their mum is just something else. I know a lot of people feel like there’s a favourite child in their family, but Nicole was so blatantly the favourite that I was angry. Nicole was everything the golden child should have been; pretty, popular, good in school and always trying to help out at home, whereas Toni was the opposite; sneaking out with her boyfriend, dressing ‘grungy’, skipping class and smoking weed, but I still feel like the level of resentment that Toni’s mother has for her in 1996 is too much. The fact that she blames Toni for Nicole’s death is partially understandable, but I felt as though if Toni had died instead her mum wouldn’t even have cared. Maybe I’m getting too emotionally invested in a crime fiction novel, but it made me mad.
That said, the girls’ relationship isn’t the central part of the novel, and it all comes down to piecing together the last few weeks and months of Nicole’s life. The ending of the book therefore has me conflicted. On the one hand, I liked that it wasn’t as predictable as I first assumed it might be and the fact that it resolved a lot of other questions I’d had throughout. However there are some things that didn’t quite add up for me when it all came down to the final confrontation (if you’ve read the book I’ll just leave Ashley’s name here) and I was mildly disappointed. It did give the book a bit more edge than I expected it to have though, so I can’t fault it too much.
I actually read this book in less than a day, which I think goes some way to showing just how much I enjoyed it as I didn’t want to put it down. I always feel like I sound really negative when I write reviews, but I gave this 5/5 stars on Goodreads so it’s safe to say I really did like it! Please let me know what you thought of this book if you’ve read it as I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews!