That Night. Finished 7-22-14, rating 4.25, fiction, 384 pages, pub. 2014
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.
It’s hard to put my thoughts on this one in a cohesive review. If I hadn’t agreed to read this for She Reads (who has chosen some of my favorite books of the year), it would probably still be sitting on my nightstand with a bookmark that moved forward ten pages a week. For me, it was the tale of two books. The first half was so slow and, well, slow. Toni seemed like your typical angst, chip-on-her shoulder teen who fell prey to the bitchy girls of high school. She had the perfect relationship with her boyfriend, a most imperfect one with her clueless parents and she and her sister were never close. I. Was. Bored. I powered through because of She Reads and also because I remember reading another blogger say that it took a long while for the story to pick up. And I am so glad that I continued reading because pick up it did and the second half of the book had me reading late into last night when I closed the book with a satisfied sigh.
Since Toni was our narrator, it was easy to see that most conflict was skewed in her favor, and there was a lot of conflict. I viewed her as someone who wanted everyone to think she was tough and because of that she attracted trouble wherever she was – high school, prison, halfway house, going back home when no one really wanted her there. I had sympathy for her but I also was hoping that she could somehow rise above it all. You’ll have to read it and make up your own mind on whether that happens or not.
I thought the book really highlighted the problems of our prison and rehabilitation system here in the States. Here was a girl who was innocent, sent to prison, and then expected to learn how to live in a world hostile and distrustful of her. Maddening and saddening at the same time.
If you are willing to get past a slow beginning you will be in for a great thriller that will have you turning pages as quickly and as long as possible. Like me, you might even give up some sleep for it.