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.
The story begins with Toni being released from prison but the book moves back and forth from her present situation, trying to get her life back and find out what really happened, to the events that fated night that led to her prison sentence.
As I read the book, my heart went out to Toni over and over again. One, she beat to her own drum and was seen as rebellious, so she was considered a troublemaker. Her mother clearly saw her as a bad seed and often laid the blame on her without evidence. I really disliked Toni's mother in the story. I felt she clearly favored Nicole, the younger sister, without realizing or caring about the hurt she was causing Toni. I was hoping for a resolution between the two of them but my negative feelings for the mother only intensified as I continued reading. My feelings for her bordered on hatred at the end. Toni's father never really gave up on Toni but I also thought he could have done more for her. He protected her mother because of her fragility and Toni was left behind. Toni was also bullied to the point of violence and basically lived her young life in fear of Shauna and her friends. No one should have to put up with this kind of treatment but unfortunately, their are children in our society who have to deal with this every day of their lives. I felt ripped apart as Toni suffered over and over from the actions of these horrible girls. Finally, the ultimate blow was having to serve years in prison, finally getting out only to realize that she still couldn't really get free from her past unless she uncovered the truth, which could get her sent right back to prison.
When I finally reached the end, I was satisfied but I didn't want the story to end where it did. What Chevy Stevens does is she leaves you with hope. In some ways, it was the perfect ending but I was so invested in Toni's life and she was so real to me that I wanted to know more. I wanted to know if she was able to move on, to finally get her life back and be able to put the past behind her. I wanted to see her five years later and how she was getting along. I guess I will just have to imagine it the way I want it to be.
We all know, although this was an intense example, that there are plenty of people who go to jail who could possibly be innocent. People who have to spend years in prison and then desperately try to get their lives back after their names have been dragged through the dirt. We know there are also horrible people in the world who will destroy someone's life just because they can. This story shows us the life of a girl who was a true victim in every sense of the word, who was able to hold on when most would give up, who was able to stay strong and withstand overwhelming obstacles in the hope that someday, she would be finally be free. The book was intense, it will push and pull on your emotions, and you will not be able to put it down until the gripping conclusion. This one gets five stars for me and I will not be forgetting the character of Toni any time soon. Want to win a copy of this book? Head over to SheReads.org and enter to win!