Opening line: “I followed the escorting officer over to Admissions and Discharge, carrying my belongings in a cardboard box—a couple pairs of jeans, some worn-out T-shirts, the few things I’d gathered over the years, some treasured books, my CD player.”
The story begins with Toni’s release from prison, where she was incarcerated for 16 years for the murder of her sister. The book is written switching back and forth between Toni’s teenage years, when the murder happened, and her present adjusting to life outside of prison. Her teenage boyfriend, Ryan, was also accused and has been in prison. They are innocent, but their lives are irrevocably changed. Toni thought Ryan was the love of her life, but as they are forbidden to see each other, how can they ever come to closure about their relationship? She has to make a decision: is it worth risking her newfound freedom to find out what really happened?
I tore through this book. It reminded me of Orange Is the New Black, which I loved. And reading about Toni’s struggles during high school broke my heart. Toni is the “problem child” of the family, always getting in fights with her mom, wearing dark clothing, smoking pot, getting bad grades; her younger sister, Nicole, is the good one. Toni’s parents are disappointed with her, and she doesn’t tell them when she starts being bullied by Shauna. The bullying begins when Ryan snubs Shauna and chooses to date Toni instead.
What starts as mean but annoying pranks turns into a full-blown evil obsession for Shauna, and it gets dangerous. Toni cannot go anywhere without being afraid for her life. It gets worse when Nicole join’s Shauna’s group of friends. Now Shauna is over at Toni’s house on a regular basis. But then Nicole starts acting strangely—almost as paranoid as Toni—even though she and Shauna are apparently good friends. One night when Toni’s parents are out and Toni plans to sneak out with Ryan, Nicole begs to tag along with them. Toni gives in, thinking maybe she and her sister can restore their relationship. They drive out to a lake and Ryan and Toni sneak off alone. When they get back, Nicole’s body is in the water.
This book was chilling, and every character was not what they appeared. It makes you think about how evil and desperate people can be, and at the same time how others deserve more credit than we give them.
This book was definitely a departure from my usual historical fiction, and it turned out to be worth it.
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