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Book Rec: Before We Were Innocent by Ella Berman

Updated: Apr 9

“If she thinks she can catch me out just by looking at me, then she’s sorely mistaken. I’ve been playing this part for so long I can almost convince myself of most things.”

 

A recent Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, Before We Were Innocent is an intricately woven thriller. Three high school friends go to Greece: only two return… months later. What really happened? In the decade since, the remaining girls’ lives diverge. On one fateful night they come colliding back to together. It’s a quick read that I’m sure would make a great film.

 

Book Jacket

book jacket with the title written in light pink and three girls in swimsuits running away from the camera

Ten years ago, after a sun-soaked summer spent in Greece, best friends Bess and Joni were cleared of having any involvement in their friend Evangeline’s death. But that didn’t stop the media from ripping apart their teenage lives like vultures.

 

While the girls were never convicted, Joni, ever the opportunist, capitalized on her newfound infamy to become a motivational speaker. Bess, on the other hand, resolved to make her life as small and controlled as possible so she wouldn’t risk losing everything all over again. And it almost worked.

 

Except now Joni needs a favor, and when she turns up at her old friend's doorstep asking for an alibi, Bess has no choice but to say yes. She still owes her. But as the two friends try desperately to shake off their past, they have to face reality.

 

Can you ever be an innocent woman when everyone wants you to be guilty?

 

Discussion Questions (spoilers ahead!)

  1. Bess and Joni are vilified by the media after Evangeline’s death. How successful do you think each of the girls were navigating their infamy? What would you have done in their position?

  2. Why do you think Bess agrees to help Joni when she returns a decade later? Why does Bess find her old friend almost irresistible?

  3. Toward the end, Joni attributes her manipulative behavior to her past trauma. Do you think this is justified? Should our actions be forgiven because of our past?

  4. Do you think Bess becomes fearless in her choices by the end? Do you think Joni learned anything from the events of 2008 and 2018?

  5. Did this story make you examine your own life? Social media allows people to curate their lives for the world. But if everything was laid bare, would the light of day bring shame or judgment?

 

If you liked this thriller, you should pick up The Family Game next!

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Tamu
02 Apr
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Can't wait to read about Joni, Bess and Evangeline...

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Tamu
29 Mar
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I will read this!

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