For most high school bullying victims, life eventually gets better. For Toni Murphy, her torment at the hands of a mean-girl clique turns into a nightmare she can’t escape.

As her senior year draws to a close, Toni is planning a future with her adored boyfriend Ryan. He’s the one bright spot in her life. At home, her overly strict mom disapproves of everything she does. Her “perfect” little sister Nicole always seems to make her look bad, while getting away with sneaking out and lying to their parents. And at school, she’s taunted by a popular girl group led by her ex-friend Shauna. Graduation can’t come soon enough

Then Nicole is found brutally murdered. Toni and Ryan are the only suspects, and Shauna’s crew testifies that they saw the two sisters fighting right before the murder.  No one believes Toni’s side of the story, and she’s sent to prison.

That Night takes up Toni’s story 17 years later. She’s paroled and back in her hometown, but starting a new life isn’t so easy: Shauna is still nursing a grudge and is eager to get Toni fired or worse. Meanwhile, someone has been talking about what really happened on the night of the murder. Ryan wants her to help him find out more.  Her parole decrees that she could be sent back to jail just for talking to him, but the lure of clearing her name is irresistible. Who killed Nicole? And what secrets was she keeping in the days before her death?

The narrative bounces back and forth between Toni’s post-parole and pre-prison life, deftly building suspense about Nicole’s fate. But it’s Toni’s richly depicted inner life that makes the book truly immersive. Chevy Stevens’ account of what it’s like to be powerless—whether as a grounded 12th-grader or a prison inmate—is pitch perfect (and relatable to anyone who’s ever been a teen). We see Toni grow from an impulsive girl to a guarded but good-hearted adult, and her desire for justice always rings true.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a behind-the-book essay from Chevy Stevens for That Night.

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