Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Review: That Night by Chevy Stevens

From Goodreads:
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.
This is my first time to read something by Stevens, despite the fact that I've got a few of her back list titles on my list.  And while I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I have to say that overall I was less than impressed with the quality of the writing.  I thought the characters were fairly static and underdeveloped.  I cared about finding out the mystery surrounding the events, but not because I cared about the characters one way or the other.  They were stock: the good girl with a dark secret, the angry older sister, the evil queen bee, the bad boy.  And while I hesitate to make too many nitpicks about specific sentences given that I read a galley, I have to say that there were several instances of sentences that were so clunky that I found myself completely taken out of the story and focused on how oddly worded things are.  Hopefully, that's something that was cleared up in the finished copy, although it seemed less like a grammatical issue and more like a style issue.

Entertainment Value
Despite my critiques regarding the quality of the writing, I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading this book.  It flew by and in spite of my issues with the characters, I really wanted to know where the plot was headed.  I made it through all 385 pages in two sittings, which says something about how into the story I was and how much I wanted to discover the truth about the titular night.  As far as whether or not that reveal is worth the lead up, it'll depend on the reader. I'm easily able to suspend my brain function and not try to figure out the ending in advance, but this ending was pretty easy to see coming.  I didn't care, and it was worth the read for me, but I think some might be disappointed.

I'm torn on this one.  I think there are a lot of readers (including myself) who will have a good time reading it and will be as interested in where the plot is headed as I was.   But I also think that readers who are looking for something darker and less predictable (along the lines of Megan Abbott or Gillian Flynn) might be disappointed.  There's the issue of predictability and the somewhat mundane nature of the writing that don't let me give the book my highest recommendation.  However, I do think it has an audience (obviously, as I liked it) and readers who enjoy Laura Lippman or Mary Higgins Clark would most likely be pleased.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

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