Title: That Night
Author: Chevy Stevens
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Toni wasn’t exactly a model teenager, but she was shocked when she was accused, along with her boyfriend Ryan, of murdering her younger sister, Nicole. Toni was tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. Now, 12 years later, she’s been released on parole and decides to try and rebuild her life. She returns to her hometown and finds a job, but Toni finds herself drawn back into her past. Along with Ryan, Toni decides to find out once and for all what happened to her sister, and who might have framed her for it.
A story divided between past and present, That Night boasts one strong character in the elder narrator and a frustrating one in the younger. The story never quite achieves full steam, so though it’s interesting with its confrontation of issues such as bullying, it’s not quite as good as Stevens’ other thrillers.
That Night is a psychological thriller told in two different time frames: the current day, as Toni is released from prison, and the past, before Nicole’s death. Present-day Toni is hardened by her time in jail; she has served a sentence without committing a crime, and while she’s angry, she also just wants to keep a low profile. This Toni is smart, inquisitive, and cautious. She’d like to know what happened, but at the same time, it’s more important to her to stay clear of anything and anyone that might cause her to violate her parole. Readers will enjoy getting to know Toni as an adult, especially as she begins asking questions and trying to piece together what happened to Nicole.
The second time frame is Toni’s past, as an 18-year-old young woman pushing against the boundaries her parents have set up for her, and this is where things get more difficult. Young Toni is frustrating, to say the least. It’s understandable why she’s rebelling, but it’s not a lot of fun to read about. These scenes feel like they drag, unfortunately. While readers will be captivated by the adult Toni, they’ll be skimming young Toni’s story, hoping to get back to the older, wiser, and more sympathetic version of the main character.
One thing that does make young Toni more sympathetic is the horrific bullying she undergoes. Stevens chooses to make that issue a centerpiece of her novel, and it’s hard to read sometimes. One thing Stevens gets fully right is the tone of that storyline; our young main character is constantly uneasy, wondering when the next shoe is going to drop. She can’t enjoy the peace in her life, the few times it comes up, because she knows that, eventually, the group of girls after her will do something to ruin it. It’s not just sad, it’s enraging, and readers will want those girls to get their comeuppance in the present.
The story is interesting, though it meanders at times through the past and present, never quite fully achieving a “gripping” state. Given the direction the book was heading, I correctly guessed the basic outlines of the ending, though Stevens did lob some unexpected twists and turns my way. Overall, this was not my favorite Chevy Stevens novel, though I absolutely will read whatever she writes next.
Other books by Chevy Stevens: