Member Reviews

The plot reads like a story ripped from the headlines. One girl dead, two of her friends suspected of the crime. Set in Greece at the end of their vacation before they pick up their adult responsibilities, these young women return to the US neither guilty nor innocent. They must live their lives with the question of their involvement always there. One uses this question to launch a career that insures her celebrity while the other lives as quietly as possible, hoping to become a footnote in the story.
Fast forward 10 years. Another crime piulls the two friends together again. The story explodes at this point. As focus again finds them, will history repeat itself or will current events prove what really happened 10 years ago.

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This book was so good. I found it to not be a fast read but it was a through read. The story was told with so much attention to the details. The details of not only the storyline but also of the characters. I felt like I was living through their stories and hearing on the news of the lives their were living.

As I read, I found myself looking for the clues as to what the rest of the story was. The rest of the story of Evangeline and their summer getaway but also the story of Joni. I was left looking for a little more, I am not sure what I wanted more of, but I was not entirely happy with the story. There were parts, important parts, that we skimmed over (the prison time) that I wanted more of.

I would recommend Before We Were Innocent to anyone who is looking for a book full of twists and turns.

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Thank you to Berkley Publishing and Netgalley for the electronic advanced copy of Before We Were Innocent by Ella Berman. The novel is part coming of age and part literary mystery. It's not quite twisty/fast-paced enough to be a thriller, but there's definitely an air of "what really happened?" and "who did what?" to the book. The story centers around three privileged teenagers spending their summer before college in a small seaside cottage in Greece. After the tragic death of one of the girls, the two others are left to deal with the aftermath. They are initially charged with her murder, but are eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. However, the media firestore picks apart their lives, their mistakes, and nearly everything about them. Ten years later, the two friends reunite when a similar crime makes them question everything.

I found it really interesting to think about if tragedy struck and your life was picked apart how things would look. Especially as a teenage girl. Who is cast in the role of "innocent" and who is "bad" is not as simple as the media would portray if every bit of your life was suddenly under review.

This book will definitely leave you with things to talk about.

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First can we take a moment to appreciate this cover?!

This book hits close to home as I was once (many moons ago) a teenage girl, and have raised two daughters through the teenage years. You see the sweetness in the friendship of these girls, and also the toxic side. Those years are tough for all

Bess, Joni and Evangeline come together in high school and are inseperable. They want to be grown up. They try to act grown up. But they are still girls.

After senior year, before heading to college, they travel to one of Evangeline's family homes in Greece for the summer. They imagine it will be exciting and exotic, but it actually turns out to be not so much either of those. Evangeline is fine as it is, but Bess and Joni want more. And in seeking that, tragedy strikes. One girl is dead, and the other two deal with the consequences. This was heartbreaking.

As a parent, I found myself wondering who thought it was a good idea to send these three off alone for the entire summer.

This is a dual timeline and the second timeline is ten years later. The two surviving friends are both still trying to cope with the loss. They haven't seen each other in years, but something brings them together. The toxicity is still there and it's still heartbreaking. These characters are hard to like, but they still touch your heart.

This book will leave you a bit uncomfortable. It will leave you anxious. And it will have you questioning yourself as you try to figure out what actually happened.

Overall a great read. I would definitely be intersted in more from this author.

Many thanks to Berkley Publishing and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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I'm pretty sure this is an it's-not-you-it's me situation with Before We Were Innocent, because this book is getting a lot of great feedback, but I just wasn't able to connect with it, I just wanted more from the characters. The synopsis sounded like I was going to love it, but It ultimately fell flat for me. Having said that, I'm definitely going to check out Ella Berman's next book. Thanks so much for the opportunity to review!

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Joni and Bess have been through a lot together- from a tense summer trip with their friend Evangeline, her tragic death, and being arrested on suspicion of her murder. They’ve been cleared of all suspicion for years now and are trying to move on with their lives. However, now Joni needs Bess to help her.. and the situation is eerily similar.

What I loved:
-complex relationships
-teenage friendships
-the tension!!
-beautifully detailed description of settings/characters

I wouldn’t consider this a thriller like I was initially expecting but I did really enjoy this tense, character-based book about the relationship between three friends.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for the advanced reading copy!

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3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5) Before heading off to college, three friends took the opportunity to spend the summer in Greece together. One was killed and two were suspected but cleared.

Who would pass up the opportunity to spend weeks in Greece? It sounded amazing and for the first bit, it was. Then the girls got bored and started turning on each other. It was only made worse by one of their brothers showing up with his friends and starting a romance with one of the girls. This seemed to be the breaking point.

“Sometimes, your entire f*cking life catches on fire for no reason other than to remind you of how fragile it all is. How little control we have over any of it.”

When one girl is found dead under suspicious circumstances, the other two are suspects. The drama played out beautifully with personal moments taken out of context and conversations taken literally. Even pictures taken could be construed.

Ten years later the women meet up for the anniversary. Their lives are polar opposites because of what happened in Greece. When another tragedy happens, lines start connecting. It became the ultimate mystery with suspense that played out well. What started out as a slow build, turned into fascinating details that changed the entire book.

I enjoyed this book but my personal preference is that I wanted more from the ending. I needed more of a conclusion as it was a bit open-ended and left me dissatisfied. However, the remainder of the book was entertaining throughout.

Thank you to Berkley, NetGalley and Shelf Awareness for the giveaway win!

The book releases April 4, 2023.

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10 years ago, while enjoying a summer in Greece, Bess and Joni were cleared of all charges in the accidental death of their best friend, Evangeline. But the media, however, had already judged them guilty the girls became infamous. Joni, ever the opportunist, created a career and enterprise in motivational speaking. Bess, however, made herself smaller and smaller, until she doesn't even know herself anymore. Now Joni is entangled in another woman's disappearance and seeks out Bess for help. Is it finally time to face up to what happened that night, exposing herself as the young woman she once was and maybe still is?

*Special thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for this e-arc.*

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While I had initially expected this to be a thriller, I realized about half way in that it is in fact a literary mystery, much more character driven than plotdriven. This is a coming of age story, but one deeply impacted by close female friendships.

As a character driven study on toxic friendships and the life long impacts of such, I think this was a really interesting story. I enjoyed the various mysteries and the ambiguity the author left us with. The pacing was good and consistent and fitting for this genre. If you are looking for a plot heavy, twisty story, this book may not be for you. However, I think this was a solid sophomore novel and one I continue to think about weeks later.

Read if you like:
•coming of age
•literary mysteries
•stories about toxic friendships
•character driven stories
•dual timeline

Thank you Berkley Publishing and PRH Audio for the advanced copies in exchange for my honest review.

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Thank you to @berkleypub and @netgalley for my advance copy! I am embarrassed to say The Comeback is still waiting to be read and side eyeing me on the shelf but when I saw this cover, the fact it takes place in California AND Greece- I knew it was for me.

Friendship is weird man. It can be all consuming, make you feel like the baddest bitch and so loved. It can also make you feel shattered, suffocated, and devastated. We have all had those friends we cling to from childhood. The ones you just don’t want to move on from, but it is inevitable. Berman does such a damn good job of writing female friendships. Especially teenage female friendship.

We get so many twists and turns with this one as the story unfolds. It’s hard not to sympathize with Bess and yet, also dislike her. The truth finally comes out in the end and I was gripped and raw. I felt all the emotions with the characters, I was so drawn in and vested. There were so many great quotes in this one too. “"It's the story of three perfectly imperfect women who hurt each other in all the most obvious ways, but who loved each other enough for a lifetime."

Let me be clear, this is not a thriller. It is more a coming-of-age story with a slight of hand. Just know you will be in the feels with it. It will leave an impression even if you weren’t expecting it.

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Before heading off to different colleges in the Fall, best friends Ev, Joni, and Bess are spending two months on a Greek island at Ev’s family’s cottage. The vacation isn’t the paradise they expect, and, tragically, Ev dies. The Greek police arrest Joni and Bess. The media pick up the case, scrutinizing Joni and Bess and mining the girls’ social media, even hacking their DMs, presenting them to the public in the worst possible light.

When they are released, Joni uses the experience to launch a personal self-help brand, but Bess turned inward, moving to the desert and working from home. The two women have no contact until ten years later when Joni shows up at Bess’s door needing help. Her fiancée, Willa, is missing, and she needs Bess’s help. The request plunges Bess into memories of the trip to Greece, both who she was at the time and the relationship amongst the teen girls.

The book is told in two timelines, 2008, during the fateful trip, and 2018, both from Bess’s perspective. While reading the book, I kept thinking about two things: 1) the new Investigative Discovery show “Mean Girl Murders” and 2) the Amanda Knox case and how she was vilified for her actions after her roommate’s death and how her social media trail was used against her.

In terms of the first, the book excellently (and disturbingly) depicts the complicated and messy, often toxic and jealous, ties among teen girls. Regarding the second, everyone connected to the Ev’s death and the subsequent media exposure is forever changed, not just Joni and Bess, but also the people around them. It’s a fascinating study of how the media creates characters out of public figures that may have little or nothing to do with who they actually are. Ten years later, Joni and Bess are still caught in the slipstream to varying effect.

If you enjoy character-driven books about friendship, add BEFORE WE WERE INNOCENT to your reading list! Things you should know: this book is not a thriller and some of the ending is ambiguous.

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A captivating story with flawed characters at its core. The interwoven timelines work well to move to story along, but the intrigue really drives the plot.

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Three best friends spend a sun soaked summer in Greece, but only two of them return home. The story unfolds in dual timelines with themes of family, friendship and toxic relationships.

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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 10 years of radio silence. The two of them had traveled with their other best friend, Evangeline, to Greece 10 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’ help.

I loved the dual timelines and the duel 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.

Thank you so much @netgalley and @berkelypub for the early review copy. Thank you so much @chicklitcentral for allowing me to share my thoughts on this story.

4.25 stars

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This moves between 2008 and 2018 to tell a tale of toxic female friendship and secrets. Evangeline went over the side of a cliff on Mykonos in 2008 while spending the summer there with Joni and Bess, They were all 18 and living their best lives, sort of. Fast forward to 2018, and while Bess has felt guilty for the last 10 years, Joni has moved on. Moved on and taken advantage of the fame she gained as the result of what happened. Except that now she needs Bess' help because she's in trouble, thus opening the can of worms they've both lived with all this time. It's quite character driven but it's also twisty because of the way the secrets of Mykonos are parceled out. I thought this would be trope-y, and to a certain extent it is, but it's also intriguing in a way I didn't expect. Berman is a good storyteller and you'll find yourself turning the pages. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A good read.

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Thank you so much for an advanced copy of Before We Were Innocent. I enjoyed this one!

I love a good book that keeps me hooked from start to finish, and this book did just that! I feel like I flew through it because I just had to know what was going to happen next. That is the best feeling! I felt very connected to the main characters, and the story honestly made me feel like I was reliving parts of my teenage years, albeit minus the death murder mystery part. I also really enjoyed the way the friendships were described/portrayed here. So many times, books get female friendships all wrong...but this book got it right!

I feel like this story was also really picturesque. The backdrops, the betrayals, and everything that played out was just so well done. I really appreciated the authors attention to detail and how the story was written. It had such a good flow to it, and that made me want to keep reading long past my bedtime. I was hooked from the beginning.

If you like murder type mystery books, this one will be for you. It honestly gave me Amanda Knox vibes even though that's not how the plot played out by the end. I think it was the European setting and the friendship group that gave me those vibes more than anything.

Star Rating: 4⭐️

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Bess, Joni, and Evangeline went to Greece, but only Bess and Joni came back. Evangeline was dead, and Bess and Joni were both cleared in her death. Now, ten years later, Joni is in a similar predicament, asking Bess for help. Bess is left wondering what are the chances this is happening again, and is Joni as innocent spas she says?

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I received a gifted galley of BEFORE WE WERE INNOCENT by Ella Berman for an honest review. Thank you to Berkley Publishing and PRH Audio for the opportunity!

BEFORE WE WERE INNOCENT follows Bess, a young woman with a tragedy in her past. Ten years ago, she traveled with her best friends Joni and Evangeline to Greece and at the end of that trip, Evangeline was dead. Though Bess and Joni were suspected of playing a part in her death, they were cleared of all charges. Still, their names and reputations and lives are permanently stained by what happened.

In the present day, Bess is living her life day to day, trying to fly under the radar. When Joni shows up at her door asking for help after a fight with her fiancée, Bess reluctantly agrees/ She couldn’t expect how far this would go and how she would be dragged back into the spotlight as a result.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I was instantly intrigued to find out what happened in Greece all those years ago. I wouldn’t say I was particularly loving any character in the story, but I still found them all very compelling to read about. I was definitely questioning throughout who to trust and why I questioned them which kept me hooked on the story.

I think the author did a good job of going back and forth between timelines and showing how characters changed from the young and somewhat innocent and selfish teens to the adults they’ve become. We’re in Bess’ head, but we get to see enough of Joni to see how different the paths were that they each went down.

I think this is a book where it’s best to go in without too much information. You do need to be ready to accept very flawed characters making very bad decisions and a slow burn mystery. I will definitely look to read more from Ella Berman in the future!

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Before We We’re Innocent
By Ella Berman

Basically, I thought I’d love this one, and it was just fine.

📖 After graduation, 3 friends go to Greece for a summer long trip, but only 2 return. What really happened is something only they know. Years later, another girl goes missing putting them back in the spotlight.

I’m fascinated by Americans locked up abroad (Re: Brokedown Palace, Amanda Knox, etc) but this just didn’t live up to my expectations.

So much of the story was just about the girls’ lives and their teenage drama and not as much time on the rest. Even the present timeline was pretty anticlimactic. I thought there’d be more suspense.

Overall, it was a good book, but somewhat disappointing and anticlimactic for what I expected. I really loved The Comeback and had very high hopes for this one.

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Pub date: 4/4/23
Genre: contemporary fiction, mystery
Quick summary: Bess and Joni joined their BFF Evangeline on a trip to Greece, but tragedy struck when Evangeline was found dead. Years later, Joni calls on Bess when she's caught in another similar situation, and Bess will have to decide if she can trust her friend.

This book felt "ripped from the headlines", as Joni and Bess were Amanda Knox-like characters, only in Greece instead of Italy. I enjoyed the mystery in two timelines and seeing Bess try to reckon with her mistakes and her suspicion of Joni. The sun-drenched Greek island setting was also lovely. I think this would have been a stronger book at 300 pages versus almost 400, but it was still an enjoyable read.

Thank you to Berkley Publishing and @letstalkbookspromo for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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