Those Girls by Chevy Stevens is a thriller about a group of sisters who barely escape their murderous father, only to run right into even more danger (available July 7, 2015).
Years ago, Jess and her two older sisters, Dani and Courtney, were doing what they could to make ends meet at the Canadian ranch where they lived. Their struggle was compounded by their alcoholic father, who became more and more violent and unreliable after their mother’s death. When he comes home one night, raging at Courtney’s relationship with a married man, the situation goes from bad to dangerous. He attacks Courtney, drowning her in a toilet. To protect her sister, Jess is forced to shoot her father.
Then the girls have to run. They manage to make it to the next town before the truck breaks down. However, their hoped-for salvation becomes a nightmare of the first order when the girls are attacked. And they’re alone. The cops will arrest them for the murder of their father, their mother is dead, and there are no friends in this isolated town. There’s no one and nothing to turn to – except for each other.
Now, years later, the decisions they made as teenagers and the consequences of this dark period are coming back to haunt them.
Those Girls by Chevy Stevens is a whirlwind of tense, emotional situations. At its heart, it’s a story about the love and devotion of sisters. Every time you turn the page, loyalties are tested, lives are in jeopardy, and the dark threats of the past rear their ugly heads up into the present. No secret is kept safe here.
The story centers on Jess – the first section of the novel is told from her first person POV and the second section is told from Jess’s daughter’s POV – but all of the girls are imminently likeable. Stevens shows the sisters are no strangers to hard work. They mend fences, repair household damage, get their own food, drive while underage, and manage a whole host of other things – including dodging authorities who would put them in foster care. Not to mention, they have guns and know how to use them.
Dani and I had the house clean by the time Courtney got home. We were out in the backyard, setting up beer cans to do some target practicing. dad left us his rifle when he was out of town – an old Cooley .22 semiautomatic he’d gotten from his father – and made sure we had enough bullets. He said he wanted us to be able to take care of ourselves. We didn’t have much time to just kick around, but we liked shooting stuff or going fishing. I squinted, took aim on the can, held my breath, and squeezed the trigger. The can flew into the air.
It’s a good thing these characters are so capable because Steven’s has taken the old writer’s advice of “be cruel to your characters” to heart. Jess and her sisters face real threats – whether it’s from the town boys, police, or their own father. But the best part is that these girls, and the women they become, don’t back away from these threats. Stevens pulls zero punches. If there’s an opportunity to put the characters in danger, the author does not hold back.
Dad picked up the frying pan, held it close to Courtney’s face. She squirmed, frantically trying to get away. I threw myself at his back, pounded against him, clawed his neck, any flesh I could find. He hit backward with his elbow, catching me in the jaw and sending me to the floor.
He gripped Courtney’s face tight in one fist, her eyes bulging.
“Dani!” I screamed. She had the gun up to her shoulder, aimed at Dad, but she was just staring, her face shocked and white.
Dad pressed the pan against Courtney’s jaw. She shrieked, the wound stabbing into me. Dani stood there, the gun quivering in the air.
Sometimes the narrative is emotionally difficult to get through because there are such visceral descriptions of rape, abuse, and murder. Its saving grace is the fact that the sisters stick by one another, no matter what. Between the depictions of violence, there are genuine moments of connection – which certainly makes the darker moments that much darker. Each of the sisters responds to the situations in which they find themselves in an individual, believable way and they engage with one another with affection.
Those Girls is a fascinating story filled with tough situations and compelling characters. It escalates very quickly from a family trying to make it against challenging odds to a story of survival at any cost. The ride is fast and intense.
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Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing, feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.
Read all posts by Jenny Maloney for Criminal Element.