Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Guest Book Review: Before We Were Innocent

By Allyson Bales

Wow.  What. A. Ride.  I was gripped from the very start of this mysterious literary tale and NEEDED to know what happened to Joni, Bess, Evangeline, and Willow.  Before We Were Innocent begins with Bess in 2018.  One of her best friends, Joni, has come to visit her after almost ten years of radio silence.  The two of them had traveled with their other best friend, Evangeline, to Greece ten years earlier to celebrate their graduation from high school and Evangeline died.  Now Joni is back with a similar situation on her hands and needs Bess’s help.

I loved the dual timelines and mysteries. I also really enjoyed how the secrets from 2008 and 2018 slowly come out as the book progresses while you also learn more about the girls.  This is as much a mystery as it is a character driven story and that made me feel so connected to the characters and what was going to happen.

Joni is scrappy and self assured while Bess is softer and more retrospective and both were relatable and representative of so many young women trying to find themselves.  I loved their complex and dramatic yet nurturing relationship.  Additionally, the first hand look at the impact tragedy has on the next steps in life made me think a lot. Joni and Bess take different paths after the loss of Evangeline and how they cope with the aftermath made them even more likable to me.

Lastly, Berman does a great job of encapsulating the role of the media and the way they were so fascinated with Joni and Bess reminded me a lot of the Amanda Knox story.  Media has had such and impact on how we think, feel, and view the world and Berman beautifully and realistically portrayed that reality. 

I am now a fan of Ella Berman and will have to read her first book The Comeback.  If you enjoy mystery and character driven stories with cliffhanger chapters that make you want to peel your eyes open to read one more chapter, this book is for you.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Allyson Bales lives in New Jersey.  She is an art therapist working with at-risk youth and loves making a difference.  Books have been her saving grace and really helped her manage being a front line worker during the Pandemic.  When she’s not helping others, she loves to travel and camp with her wife.  One of her favorite places to read is by a campfire with some good tunes in the background.  You can find her on Bookstagram at @readswithally.

Also by Ella Berman:

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