Thursday, September 30, 2021

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

We Were Never Here
by Andrea Bartz
Read by Becca Tobin
Published August 2021 by Random House Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary:
Emily is having the time of her life—she’s in the mountains of Chile with her best friend, Kristen, on their annual reunion trip, and the women are feeling closer than ever. But on the last night of the trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she brought back to their room attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more shocking: The scene is horrifyingly similar to last year’s trip, when another backpacker wound up dead. Emily can’t believe it’s happened again—can lightning really strike twice? 

Back home in Wisconsin, Emily struggles to bury her trauma, diving headfirst into a new relationship and throwing herself into work. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit, Emily is forced to confront their violent past. The more Kristen tries to keep Emily close, the more Emily questions her motives. As Emily feels the walls closing in on their cover-ups, she must reckon with the truth about her closest friend. Can Emily outrun the secrets she shares with Kristen, or will they destroy her relationship, her freedom—even her life?

My Thoughts:
Some mystery/thriller books that hold up long after they're first published. Despite getting great reviews, I'm not sure this book will be one of those, although it's certainly a wild ride. 

Emily and Kristen become best friends in college and, because they both have families their in no rush to spend time with, they'll travel the world during breaks from school, trips that continue years after they've finished school. But as a trip to Chile devolves into burying a body in the middle of nowhere, Bartz gradually reveals that this is not the first time these two young women have found themselves getting rid of the body of a man who attacked one of them only a year earlier. And here's where I first started having problems with this book. 

If you'd found yourself hiding the body of a man because you felt certain that a foreign justice system wouldn't buy that it was self-defense, how quickly would you be willing to travel to another foreign country? Even if you're answer is a year, and even if you're not yet thirty-years-old, would you even remotely considering going to your room with a total stranger in yet another foreign country? Or even in the same city you live in, for that matter? 

The two young women head home, Emily to Milwaukee, Kristen to Australia WITH A FAIRLY LARGE PIECE OF EVIDENCE IN HER LUGGAGE!!! Ok, yeah, you don't want it lying around to implicate you. But maybe drop it in the trash in the airport? These are only a couple of the things that raised questions for me within the first 100 pages of the book. Even after the young ladies returned home, there were so many times I wanted to slap Emily to wake her up. 

Normally I'd feel bad if I gave away this much about a mystery novel, but the publisher's summary gets you well into the book before they decide they've finally given you enough to lure you in.

Here's the thing, though - even with all of the issues that I had with this book, I raced to make sure I finished it before it automatically was returned to the library because I really needed to know how Bartz was going to resolve this. Was Kristen gaslighting Emily? Had Kristen killed before? Or was Emily burying memories that would acquit Kristen? The tension ratchets up and up and there seems to be no way either of these young women is getting away with what they did in Chile. Bartz did manage to keep me wondering until the end and she managed to throw in a couple of surprises I did not see coming. 

The verdict? Despite all of the issues I had with this one, there was still enough here to keep me reading and there's certainly a lot that book clubs would find to talk about. 

Bonus for me: Emily lived in the very neighborhood that my son and his wife lived in when they were in Milwaukee, she went to a beach we'd been to, and Bartz described the city in very much the same way that I would describe the downtown. It's always good to find that kind of connection in a book. 

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