Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Book Author: Chevy Stevens

THAT NIGHT by Chevy Stevens: Book Review

Seventeen-year-old Toni Murphy is an angry, troubled girl.  She is her parents’ challenging daughter while her younger sister Nicole is the perfect one.  No matter what she does, Toni feels that her mother and father are always angry and disappointed.

The story opens in 2012, when Toni is released from prison.  She and her boyfriend Ryan were convicted seventeen years ago, despite their protestations of innocence, of killing Nicole.  Now Toni is thirty-five, determined to return to her home town of Campbell Island, British Columbia, although she has no friends there and is estranged from her parents.

Under the terms of her parole, even if Ryan is released at the same time as she is and chooses to go home, they are not allowed to see or talk to each other.  But the temptation is strong for Toni to contact the only other person who knows that Nicole died at someone else’s hand.

That Night is told in alternating chapters, switching between the present and the past (1996), when Toni is a very unhappy, disobedient teenager.  She’s bullied at school by a group of girls, the leader of the group once having been her best friend, and she’s constantly compared to her sister, who in their mother’s eyes can do no wrong.

As a teenager, the only bright spot in Toni’s life is her relationship with Ryan, a boy in her senior class in high school.  Although Toni’s parents haven’t forbidden her to go out with him, they’ve made their dislike quite clear.  But Ryan and Toni are in love, and they are planning to move in together as soon as they graduate, regardless of parental disapproval.

The bullying at school keeps getting worse, her relationship with her sister begins to deteriorate, and her fighting with her parents escalates, until the night that Toni and Ryan give in to Nicole’s pleading and take her to the beach with them.  But that one night changes everything.

Chevy Stevens’ narrative is outstanding.  It’s always hard for an author to sustain tension and suspense when the story is told in flashbacks.  Yet so vivid is Toni’s story that there is never a letdown, never a sense of not continuing to read simply because you know who is killed and who is punished.

The characters in That Night are believable, sometimes almost unbearably so.  I both sympathized with Toni and wanted to shake her, often simultaneously.  I wanted to tell Toni to calm down, do what her mother wants, while at the same time I was angry at her mother for always assuming the worst about her older daughter while ignoring the similar behavior of her younger one.

Toni never seems to get a break.  The accounts of the bullying by her former friends are difficult to read, as are her descriptions of her years in prison.  You feel she is hanging onto her sanity by a thread, but she keeps on fighting.  Her feelings for Ryan are real; however, she discards even that comfort while she’s in prison because she can’t deal with the pain of missing him.

That Night is a riveting novel.  It captures the angst of being a teenager, of feeling that you are a disappointment to your parents, of being on the “outs” with those who once called themselves your friends.  It also captures the toughness of a girl, later a woman, who decides that her past will not define her.

You can read more about Chevy Stevens at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.