St. Martin’s Press, June 2014
When two hard-case teens hook up in high school and defy their contemporaries to pursue their own designs, you know there is trouble ahead. Author Chevy Stevens demonstrates tremendous insight into a variety of modern situations, from an unbalanced family to a flawed legal system to life in prison and on parole.
The novel follows Toni Murphy, the main character who narrates her life as a rebellious teenager with a damaged family, her search for love and then, tragically her conviction on specious charges of murder. The novel combines a murder mystery with a predictable conclusion; excellent writing and an intimate look at the life of a teen growing up in a small Canadian town on the Island named Vancouver.
Calling on memory, I think the author has nailed the stresses and joys of this teen’s life, the family arguments, the shifting bullying and contretemps rife in high school life. Her descriptions of life in a women’s prison are remarkable, moving and often scary. The novel spans fifteen years in this young woman’s existence. She endures more than most women would expect in three lifetimes and she does a lot of it alone, without any significant support. Yet for the most part, she retains an essential piece of humanity. Through the pain and suffering and loss, she finds occasional hope, like small rafts in a heaving, lonely, sea.
The murder of which Toni is innocent and for which she is sent to prison, hangs over the story until the end. The last third of this long novel is a skilful exercise in the presentation of facts about the murder, leading to rising tension and intricate emotional maneuvering. The novel is too long, in my view, but it is a powerful contemporary examination of modern life that will remain in readers’ consciousness for a considerable time.
Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.