The story is divided between the past, Toni before the death of her sister, and the following to her detention and imprisonment, and the present, during her time in prison and when she is free on parole. The difference between the narration for the two times frames is noticeable, from a scare and confused teen Toni (past) to a strong and determine women who only wanted to get her life back (present).
The characters are really well developed. Toni, in the present, is smart, inquisitive, wise, and determine but cautious. She wants to learn the truth, but at the same time wants to keep a low profile to avoid going back to prison where she shouldn't have gone in the first place. But, the reader can see how much she has grown after her sister’s death, and more after starting piecing together what happen to Nicole.
In the past, she is a rebellious teen, but it’s sometimes was understandable considering how sometimes her parents judged her and compared her to her sister. “ Your mom was always so tough on you but didn't know what Nicole was really up to most of the time.“ How she was bullied at school. She did do some stupid things, drugs, breaking into neighbors’ houses. But all she wanted was the acceptance of her parents specially from her mom. “Why won’t you believe me? I just want you to love me. That’s all I've ever wanted.” I personally like how she turned her life around and become a strong woman.
Ryan whose dad was in and out of prison, wanted people to stopped comparing him to his dad. He had some run ins with the law like stealing gas. He was a troubled boy who did stupid things and drugs. In the present, he is stronger but has a lot of rage in him. All he wants is to find peace in his life but bringing to light the true killer.
Shauna and her companions, Kim, Cathy, and Rachel, enraged me. They treated Toni super bad. They were the cause of the bullying Toni undergoes as a teen and continues as an adult. They wanted Toni “to be scared, wanted (her) to know that no place , not even in (her) own home, was safe from them.”
This story is a bold page-turner, that will keep you reading to the very end. An all-nighter. The plot is deeply satisfying. The gripping writing is so emotional it will have you tearing up, enraged, frustrated, sympathetic, excited, heartbroken, etc. A roller-coaster of emotions. It kept me guessing and sometimes distrusting characters to the very end. I really enjoyed it. Definitely looking forward to discovering other pieces by Stevens. 4.5 to 5 Stars.