Tuesday, July 1, 2014

That Night by Chevy Stevens Review

That Night by Chevy Stevens
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: June 17, 2014
384 Pages
Source: Publisher
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N


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.
 -(from Goodreads) 

That Night by Chevy Stevens

My Thoughts: That Night by Chevy Stevens is the story of Toni Murphy as she struggles to cope with integration back into "real life" after her release from prison, after serving time for the murder - a death she has insisted from the very beginning that she did not commit. This book was an intense, wild ride of a book that kept me on my toes as I tried to figure out whether or not the narrator was actually guilty or not. 

I knew right away that I wanted to believe that Toni was not guilty. I also knew right away that it was at least possible that that Toni was spinning stories when she asserted her innocence because her personality was not stable and neither was her narration. I loved every second of it. I was held fast by this story. I blew through this book because I needed to know who committed the murder in question. 

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That Night begins in early 2012 when Toni Murphy is finally being released from prison after serving over fifteen years for the murder of her sister. Toni is angry, bitter, hardened. When she is released, she almost doesn't know what to do with herself after being out of society for so long. According to court order, she is not to have any contact with her boyfriend from before prison (she still loves him), her parents have nearly nothing to do with her because they aren't entirely convinced she is innocent, and the community of course has her pegged as the killer because she was convicted. How is Toni supposed to begin her life again, really? Everyone she loves is either dead, not allowed to see her, or choosing to believe she did something awful. There is a positive, however: Toni's old boss gave her a job and she was able to find housing. The job isn't glamorous and neither is the apartment, but Toni has a starting place...

Then she is approached by someone from her past - one of her sister's high school friends. Now, Toni has always felt these friends lied under oath with compelling testimony, and this is the reason she was convicted. During this visit, this friend some things that lead Toni to believe that maybe she knows who really killed her sister. ALSO! Toni's boyfriend, Ryan, begins to come around. Despite the court order to stay away from one another, despite the risks that they both could end up behind bars - not only does Ryan want to see Toni again but he is just as determined as Toni to do a little investigating and see if they can figure out who exactly killed Toni's sister. AND WHY THEY ENDED UP SERVING THE TIME FOR IT. 

I guessed and guessed and kept turning the pages and guessed again, and then I was WOW'ed. 

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I think that there are a couple of reasons this book worked so well for me. Even thought That Night is technically set in 2012/2013, it alternates between that present time and 1996, which is the year the crime occurred. Toni was a high schooler. She was a rebellious girl with a bad attitude. I found myself thinking over and over that if I had acted like she did or talked to my parents like she did, I'd have gotten into so much trouble. So many times,  I thought to myself that I'd never have done whatever Toni happened to be doing during whatever scene I was reading. There was an obvious issue between Toni and her younger sister - competition for their parents' affection and attention, and definitely a competition between the two for popularity. The sisters were at odds over one group of girls that acted horrible to Toni (which just fed her insecurities and poor attitude/behavior). It was interesting to read how these two sisters had this really unusual mutual respect, going as far as keeping secrets for one another to keep each other out of trouble, but at the same time, they did not like one another enough to defend each other in front of other people. 

They had an odd sibling relationship, and yet I do believe that they loved one another. 

The relationship between Toni and Ryan was interesting as well. Toni was perhaps a bit obsessed with Ryan, and they had some behaviors that I would have definitely gotten so in trouble for when I was that age, but I do believe that they had genuine love for one another. As Toni tells the story of how the events unfolded "that night" it is clear to see that both she and Ryan were present AND it is possible that they may have played a role. 

There are a group of what I like to call "wild card" characters: these girls that were Toni's sister's friends. As Toni relayed the story throughout the book, we hear her account of how vicious they were at times. And we hear her account of how they did this and that, and how she blamed them for several different things. We never really hear much from their perspective, though. We also hear how they testified in court, and how their testimony was all untrue (according to Toni), and how they set her up. My mind wanted to believe that these girls had committed this murder - or at least played a big part in it - but I was so caught up in how I only heard Toni's side of it. What I knew of her personality and poor attitude did not give her enough credibility to make her innocent, even though she insisted that she was. Seriously, in this book, I saw everyone as a potential suspect and I thought it was both nerve-wrecking and brilliant

THEN! Then, when things started falling into place and I saw which parts were the truth and which parts were not...I loved it. 

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I do not read as many mystery/thriller/crime stories as I do other types of books, but if I had more of them in my hands like this one, I certainly would. I never felt stressed out by the story, but I was instead riveted. I am quite a bit amazed at this author's ability to make a main character that is perhaps a bit unreliable as a narrator and also a bit unlikable, and make her captivate me so. I wanted her to keep telling her story so I could find something in it that would give me some confirmation of that innocence she insisted upon. 

I loved the structural use of alternating time periods to tell the story because it made me feel like I was more firmly inside the head of Toni as she relayed her memories - see, they are all I had to go on as a reader and all I could use to form my own judgment on whether or not she was guilty. I loved also that the story BEGAN with Toni's release and reintegration into society, because I felt it very interesting seeing the difficulty she faced as a person that was trying so hard to get back on her feet, and having such a hard time doing so. It's true that there are several times when Toni did not make it any easier on herself, but I still felt for her and thought this was a great way to tell her story. 

I highly recommend That Night by Chevy Stevens to fans of mystery/thrillers. I thought this was a great page-turner and will be recommending this one to people that I see in my own real life, in the library, places like that. 

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That Night will appeal to fans of:

Adult Fiction
Mystery/Thriller
Alternating Time POV's
Standalone

That Night by Chevy Stevens
is current available for purchase.

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Mystery/thriller/crime books are one category/genre that I do not visit that often - do you have any recommendations for me? 

Is this book on your to-read list? 
I recommend it. 


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2 comments:

  1. So I'm guessing this character is an unreliable narrator -- you *want* to believe her innocence but isn't everyone in prison innocent? I'm curious, though, and love that it kept you guessing and wowed you, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Toni is definitely unreliable as a narrator, but the thing is that YES I want to believe her and I almost thought that I could - she maintains her innocence so strongly. There is a time or two that her cellmates make the comment that everyone in prison is innocent, so I love that you mention that here!

      The way this author had me holding out until the end, and guessing, wavering back and forth over Toni's storytelling and memories - I just loved it. And the ending made me smile and smirk quite a bit. I thought it was fantastic. Certainly a fun book. Loved it.

      Delete

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