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.
In 1996, Toni and Ryan were dating and in their last year of high school. They planned on working over the summer and then moving in together after they'd saved enough money. Her home life wasn't great. She and her mother didn't get along ... her
mother kept trying enforce the rules that Toni kept breaking. Her
younger sister, Nicole, seemed perfect ... she got good
grades and got along with their parents. Toni had been friends with Shauna, one of the popular girls, just before high school but they had a falling out and Shauna was making Toni's life miserable. Shauna had turned everyone against Toni and all she had was Ryan. It became worse when Shauna and her gang befriended Nicole. One night, Nicole was brutally murdered and all the evidence pointed to Toni and Ryan and they were sent to prison.
When they are 34, Toni and Ryan are paroled. They are not allowed to have contact with each other which is fine with Toni because she just wants to start a new life (she'd cut off contact with him years ago so she could emotionally survive). She moves back to her hometown and gets a job and a dog. Then Ryan starts contacting her because he wants to clear their names ... Toni just wants to keep her nose clean. But when she starts getting accused of things she hasn't done, she gets mad and wants to make someone pay.
This is the second book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it. I liked the writing style and thought it flowed well. In the beginning, the chapters go back and forth, starting in 1996 to then jump to when Toni is in prison counting the days until her parole, then back to 1996, then forward again, etc. until it catches up to today. This strategy worked for me because it built the suspense rather than starting in 1996 and telling the story chronologically ... we meet the teenager Toni and grown-up Toni side-by-side so we can see why she is the way she is today in the beginning of the book rather than having to wait until it's today. It's written in first person perspective from Toni's point of view. As a head's up, there is swearing (lots of F-bombs) but it's used appropriately.
I liked Toni and Ryan. They basically just had each other and, though they were teenagers, I was buying their love for each other and figured they would have made it had they not gone to prison. I liked today's Toni ... she was hardened, wanted to be left alone and didn't want any BS in her life. Ryan, on the other hand, didn't want to live the life with restrictions as a parolee since he hadn't committed the crime. Shauna was a major bitch in high school and today ... it surprised me that she was able to cause the amount of havoc she did and get away with it.