Typical cool ass nineties girl Toni rocked flannel and loved her boyfriend Ryan. Then her sister was killed, and they were arrested.
Told in three timelines, Toni's story follows the events leading up to "that night," Toni adjusting to prison life, and after Toni is released fifteen years later. As a teenager, Toni had to deal with her overbearing mother and a former friend turned enemy. Navigating through the minefield of high school proved tough but doable as Toni plans to move away with Ryan. Then the murder of her sister throws her into prison. Plagued by the truth, that she did not kill her sister, Toni's prison stint goes well after a few years. She makes friends and forms a kind of family inside, the kind of family she did not have outside. While not as fleshed out as her mother's disapproving nature, the book shows what a kind and loving parental figure can bring to a shiftless life. Then Toni gets out of prison and moves back to her hometown amid the stares and whispers. The structure of telling three parts of Toni's life at once, interweaving the mystery and Toni's characterization is very well done even if some parts (like the earlier parental example) are underdeveloped. The whole is a journey of a woman from unsure and listless young girl to confident woman. The mystery of who killed Toni's sister is an afterthought for the most part, informing Toni's journey rather than being a central throughline. Toni's teenage self navigating a mother who does not understand her, her time in prison, and her ability to reclaim her place in society despite the beliefs thrust upon a convicted felon give this story a bulkier narrative than an average whodunit.
For those wanting a more straightforward mystery, look elsewhere. Otherwise dive in to this well told crime drama.