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Book Review: That Night by Chevy Stevens (5/5)

13 Nov

I saw this book at a mystery bookstore years ago. Then I saw it on clearance at a B&N going out of business sale. Stevens is pen name so I felt like this book was haunting me. I’m glad I finally got to it on audio. It had been too long since my last thriller.

Cover image via Goodreads

That Night by Chevy Stevens

Summary 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.

I had trouble stopping the audio for this book. It grabbed me and had me on the edge of my seat (or leaning forward in my run) from the beginning. I knew something was up with Shauna from the beginning but it was hard to puzzle out exactly what it was. I loved the twists and turns of this book and how it came together in the end. This is the kind of book that gets you to read an author’s entire backlist.

Steven’s portrayal of girls in high school was spot on. I loved how much I could picture Toni and Nicole and Amy and Shauna. The backstabbing and secrets were right on and I kept thinking “Yes! I remember that,” as I was reading. There were always bullies and burn-outs and good girls and Stevens captured all of it. I can’t speak as much to the characters when they were older. I have no idea what spending so long in jail could do to a person. That was harder for me to wrap my head around.

Toni was a great narrator. You almost doubted her innocence when you were in her head and knew how much she lied and how strong her anger was. You almost believed she was capable of killing her sister. But at the same time, you couldn’t believe it and knew something had to be up. I was completely sucked in the last third of the book and went on a two-hour trail run where this story kept me moving forward so I could see if Toni got justice or if she deserved to rot in jail.

The girls in high school were very reminiscent of my school days. I had more drama in middle school so that’s what I had flashbacks. There wasn’t the drinking and intimacy that Toni experienced in my middle school, but the emotions were there. The raw hatred two girls can have for each other in adolescence is terrifying. While my life never escalated like Toni’s, I could relate to friendships turned bad!

Chevy Stevens
Image via the author’s website

The anticipation of Nicole’s death had me dying for more (hah!). I knew it was coming so every time we flashed to 1996, I was on edge. I felt it was coming each time and I loved the thrill I got from the author dangling something so monumental in front of me. It was well written and paced wonderfully.

I felt the first chapter put me off a bit. It was a little out of the timeline with the rest of the story. We start with Toni getting out of jail but then jump back to 1996 and to her time in jail, bouncing between the two. The first chapter made it confusing how the narrative would progress for a while and I wish it had been placed where it belonged chronologically.

The audiobook was narrated by Jorjeana Marie. I thought she did an amazing job. I felt Toni’s anger for a lot of the story and it built as the story progressed. She portrayed the flippant attitude of teenagers well and kept me engaged.

Everyone assumes Toni is a murderer because she’s a bad kid. When we find out what really happened, Toni isn’t surprised, but everyone else is. There is a lot more to the people involved than anyone expected. There was a lot of anger that was pent-up over the years and the way it all came out, in the end, was the worst thing possible. I want to stay more, but I’ve kept this review spoiler-free so far and I’m trying to keep it that way.

Writer’s Takeaway: Dual timelines are a great way to build suspense, especially in a thriller novel. I think Stevens did a great job of pacing and keeping me listening every second I could. Except for the one exception I mentioned above, I think it was masterfully done.

This book was outside my usual genre but captivated me from beginning to end. I loved it. Five out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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