Member Reviews

✨ Review ✨

A big thank you to @berkleypub @netgalley for this #gifted copy of #BeforeWeWereInnocent !! Available 4/4!


📖 Before We Were Innocent by Ella Berman

After a summer spent in Greece, best friends Bess and Joni were cleared of having any involvement in their friend Evangeline’s death, however; now, ten years later, Joni is tangled up in a crime that is eerily similar.

What it has to offer:

🔎 Mystery
🔪 Thrillerish
👯‍♀️ Female Friendship
🚙 Character Driven

Quick thoughts:

✨ Cliffhanger chapter endings.
✨ Dual timelines.
✨ Moves at a decent pace.
✨ Wasn’t what I was expecting.

An examination of friendship and the choices we make.

Overall thoughts:

📝 The short chapters and cliffhanger style chapter endings really propelled this story forward. It moved at a decent pace in the beginning and then slowed down a bit by the end.

🔎 This story was made up of dual timelines as well as dual mysteries. The mysteries end up mirroring one another which was interesting. I was definitely curious about what happened in both storylines. Details slowly trickled out.

🔪 I think this one had a thriller feel at times. I don’t want to say it was a full force thriller bc it really wasn’t. It had moments that were more intense but it lacked an action packed plot.

👯‍♀️ Female friendship is the centerpiece of this novel. The story questions what healthy friendships look like as well as who we become around different people. It was interesting watching the main character, Bess, navigate different relationships.

🚙 Surprisingly this was a character driven novel. Even with all the intrigue into what happened in Greece and what’s happening now in Joni’s life, the main focus was the characters themselves.

💔 I went in expecting a different kind of novel then what I ended up reading so I was a little dissatisfied.

💜 Overall, my favorite part was the friendship dynamic between Bess and Joni. I liked seeing what they were to each other when they were younger compared to their lack of relationship as adults.

If you like character driven novels with a hint of mystery then give this book a try!

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I have been trying to push myself out of my hard romance phase and into other genres so I was very excited to get this early book. However, the characters were so hard to like and the pacing so slow that I just couldn't get into it. Thank you for letting me try!

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Before We Were Innocent is a character-driven story about toxic friendships and buried secrets. Alternating between the past (2008) and present (2018), the story follows Bess and her two best friends during one fateful summer in Greece and then ten years later when her friend reappears in her life asking for help. I went into this story expecting a thriller, and yes, there was suspense that definitely held my interest. However, I will say the book reads more like literary fiction. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the storytelling in this format. The narrator did a great job with dialogue and depicting all the emotions.

Thank you Berkley Pub and PRH for the ARC!! Pub date: 4/4/23

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Sitting here with tears in my eyes from this gorgeous book. Before We Were Innocent captures the complexities of teenage girls, their complicated friendships, and the sometimes painful nostalgia of youth. Berman brilliantly unpacks two tragedies through the lens of great privilege and naivete. Beautifully written and provocative, this suspenseful tale of loyalty and betrayal will sit with you long after the last page.

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Having never read Berman’s debut, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Before We Were Innocent, and I’m so glad I read this. This book was like a cross between mystery and literary fiction, that made me feel for these characters, even when they weren’t their best selves.

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10 years ago, the summer before leaving for college, Bess, Joni, and Evangeline vacationed in Greece, but not all of them made it back alive. Now, Bess and Joni find themselves in the throes of a similar crime and Bess looks to the past for answers.

BEFORE WE WERE INNOCENT by Ella Berman exemplifies toxic friendships at their finest. This one was mysterious, glamorous, and full of betrayal.

The characters all felt unique from one another (despite all bearing some semblance of wealth) and the locations had me absolutely yearning for a vacation! With maybe less death, drugs, and alcohol…

This book was a true work of literary fiction that I haven’t yearned for as a reader in quite some time!

Huge thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Publication Date: April 4, 2023

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Brilliant execution of a dual timeline. I loved the overall vibe of the book as well as the way it touched on the complexity of friendship amongst teenage girls. As someone who was a teen at the time, I found the 2008 narrative to be a time capsule for the teenage experience.

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Before We Were Innocent by Ella Berman. Thanks to @berkleypub and @netgalley for the gifted Arc ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Three teens spend their summer in Greece but it ends in tragedy. Ten years later, two of them are entangled in a similar crime.

This is a strong character-driven story. I was expecting a lot more action from the synopsis but it was different than I thought. The two timelines were both interesting and I liked how they mirrored each other in ways. The Greek atmosphere was vivid and really invoked the atmosphere. The main characters are young and it has some major teenage drama, which is fun but also frustrating at times.

“We sounded frivolous at best mercenary at worst, and maybe we were. But show me an eighteen-year-old saint, and I’ll show you a liar.”

Before We Were Innocent comes out 4/4.

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Wealthy teenagers spending a summer in Greece–what could possibly go wrong? Told in past and present timelines, BEFORE WE WERE INNOCENT follows best friends Bess, Joni & Evangeline and a tragedy that tore them apart. Their façade of invincibility quickly crumbled leaving consequences that reverberated into adulthood.

While the mystery of what actually happened in Greece looms large, the present-day mystery also kept me guessing. While this isn’t a plot-driven thriller the heart of the story, the aftermath of the the tragedy and the toll it took to maintain secrets for a decade, kept me invested.

The way Ella Berman explores the ramifications of teenage mistakes and the media portrayal of the girls was thought-provoking. Although it is easy to cast judgment and blame on the girls, I think we can all relate to the desire for independence and life filled with possibilities after graduating Highschool.

Although the story was character-driven, I flew through it with a combination of print and audio narrated by Jennifer Jill Araya and would highly recommend both formats.

PUB DATE: April 4, 2023

Many thanks to Berkley and NetGalley for an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review. Review will be posted to the week of publication.

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Short Synopsis:
Three teenage best friends visit Greece for the summer. But by the end of the summer, one of them is dead. And the world blames the other two. They were cleared of her murder, but when another women goes missing ten years later, the past is brought up.

My Thoughts:
I liked this one! I loved the parallel timelines and how eerily similar they were. I loved unraveling all the secrets. Though, there were parts of this book that felt slow (it could have been shorter and had a bigger impact), it was a fun book.

Read if You Like:
💙 Drama
💙 Female Friendship
💙 Murder Mystery
💙 Character-driven novels
💙 Dual timelines
💙 One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke

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Evelyn, Joan and Beth get the trip of a lifetime this summer after graduation they get to stay in a villa on a Greek island and it’s owned by EV‘s parents. They do a lot of drinking and dabble in a little bit of drugs and mainly just have a wild time but when Bess hooks up with Eveline‘s brother and Evaline find out she isn’t sensed and because she is drunk and being belligerent she starts to take it out on Bess. Because the night ends and tragedy everything changes and it’s now 10 years later and Bess gets a knock on her door and it’s Joan. She hasn’t seen her in years but she’s back and wants Besss help what’s again the two friends will suffer another tragedy but this time best will find out truths she never wanted to or didn’t have the ability to say before. No this is just a little summary because others have done a great job giving a summary but I want to say I found Beth to be quite selfish as well as Joan and even Evalynn all seem so self-centered and I will give it to Evalynn because she was a teenager but even 10 years later I really was so over Beth‘s internal dialogue where things would happen then we would have to hear a whole chapter on one best thought about it and what she’s going to think about it but she may change her mind and think something different about it… of course like most books our review there are things I would love to say but don’t want to ruin it but this book I think was way too long and although it started strong and the ending was strong it was all of the middle with her inner dialogue Joan bing Joan it was just all too much it could’ve been so much shorter. I would still recommend this book though if you love super long books then definitely read before we were innocent the author is very talented I just think at a point when she could’ve stopped and it would’ve been stellar she may have been drinking red wine and kept going I DK but I do love this author I just didn’t love this book. I received this boat from net galley and Berkeley but I am leaving this room do voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.

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As teens, Jess and Joni spent a summer in Greece at Evangeline’s family home there. It’s been ten years since that trip, and while they were cleared of her death, the gossip mill still churns. While Joni took her newfound familiarity and turned it into a public speaking career, Jess did the opposite and tries to be as invisible as possible. Now Joni is tangled up in another crime and coming to Jess for help however.

Oh man. 1. Teenage friendships. 2. Three (an odd number) teenage girls. 3. Add alcohol, some boys, and no supervision. Sounds like a recipe for disaster if you ask me! Sadly, it kind of was! This one kept me wondering what had happened to Evangeline back in the day, but also what happened in current day. Female friendships are always so tricky, especially when there are three girls and always room for an odd man out. Now make the entire friendship toxic from the start, and you are really asking for trouble. I could so easily relate to the toxicity within this friend group, it certainly brought me back to my high school days! I found this to be a great sophomore novel to Berman’s debut The Comeback! I wouldn’t necessarily call this one a thriller, but more of a literary drama with some smaller mystery/thriller elements.

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Thanks to Berkley and Let's Talk Books Promo for the copy of this book!

One summer, friends Bess, Joni, and Evangeline head to Greece before they part ways for college... but only two of them come home. Years later, Joni once again finds herself in the middle of a scandal and seeks Bess's companionship as she goes through another unthinkable situation.

Before We Were Innocent is a story of (toxic) friendship and mystery, told in alternating past (2008) and present timelines. It's character-driven and slowly unravels as the reader is able to piece together which girls played which roles in the past and how they've changed ten years later. I would've preferred this in a grittier, fast-paced format to really show the wildness and scandal of the girls in their teen years leading up to Evangeline's death, but still found the story enjoyable overall!

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3.5 stars.

Note: this is NOT a thriller. This book is a character-driven, literary suspense/fiction read.

Initially, I went into this book wrongfully expecting a page-turner thriller. As I noted above, that is not what this book is about, and if you have those expectations you’ll be disappointed. That said, if I think about this book as a literary fiction, my perception is a bit different. This story has a mystery component, but it is really about toxic female friendship, the impact of secrets, etc. These are elements I tend to enjoy in my books. I also liked the ambiguity surrounding the ending, but that may bother some readers.

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Evangeline and Joni had been friends for years before Bess moved to their neighborhood. Their high school was full of kids who accepted their parent’s wealth and McMansions as due to them, which was a huge learning curve for Bess who hadn’t come from money. Their acceptance allowed her to fit in, and they soon became inseparable. Shortly after graduation Ev’s parents offered her a trip to Greece to stay at the family estate before they left for college, so she invited Bess and Joni. Little did Bess know the summer of 2008 would turn into a nightmare when, shortly before they were to return, she and Joni were accused of murdering Ev.

Because of what happened in Greece Bess refused to go to college and spent the next ten years blaming herself for Ev’s death. She walled herself off in the desert, working from home so she could have minimal human interactions. When Joni knocked on her door one night and asked her for an alibi because her fiancée had disappeared, Bess was drawn back into the summer of 2008. Through flashbacks and the present time, what really happened in Greece and how it ties into Joni’s sudden appearance is slowly revealed.

The emphasis here is on “slowly revealed,” as I think the events of 2008 and 2018 could have been less drawn out. However, it was an interesting storyline, full of complicated twists and ponderings of the heart, so I will recommend it for adults.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Before We Were Innocent by E. Berman, published by Berkley Publishing, Penguin Random House, is a full-length, stand-alone novel that gripped me right from the start.
An intriguing read, well written with characters I easily could connect with.
Beth and Joni were teenagers when they were tangled with the death of a friend. Beth became kind of a wallflower, she took to the shadows, but Joni thrived in the limelight.
Now, when history seems repeating itself, Joni asks Beth to come back. It seems not the best idea.
The author managed to keep me in suspense from start till the last page. I loved the storyline and the writing, 4,5 stars.

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Before we were innocent is an extreme look at teenage girls toxic relationship. If you’ve been through it, you know. And in this novel the three main girls are privileged enough to spend the summer in Greece pre college. They are different yet the same. Wielding their different forms of privilege acknowledged or not. The book rotates between present day with old friends Josie and Bess and then the past when the girls experienced the summer from hell. In present day Bess leads a pretty sad life working for an online dating app; checking for dick picks and other offenses. Josie comes swooping in needing Bess’ help. This brings up the past of course and eventually we learn WHAT HAPPENED plus the aftermath. It took a bit to get there. The there was a bit of a drag and then the book ends strong. I did enjoy the writing and for the most part the book but think it could have been a tad shorter and tightened up. That said I think this is a great commentary on just how wrong things can go in one blink, it speak volumes to friendships and how far you’d go for your friendships. Giving it 4 rounding up.

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Ella Berman is fantastic at writing books that make you "uncomfy" in the best way possible. Anyone who has ever experienced the world as a teenage girl will understand the lengths we feel we must go to protect our girls, even if that means enduring toxic friendships and dangerous situations. Berman captures this feeling perfectly - and in a world where women are still begging to be recognized as important members of society, it was genuinely cathartic to read about girls being girls. The thriller aspect of this book was, in my opinion, the least interesting aspect of the story, though it successfully entertained me throughout. Berman crafted a near-perfect, character-driven novel that every woman can relate to. 5/5 Stars.

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Before We Were Innocent by Ella Berman is the story of three girls' summer in Greece and how it will change their lives forever. Bess, Joni, and Ev are a fearsome threesome. The girls live a life of privilege that can afford them anything they want. You can't buy happiness.

Joni and Bess are long-time friends. Bess is new in town. The three forge a friendship like no other. The three girls go to Greece to spend their last summer together before heading to college, and something tragic happens.

Ev plans the all-expenses-paid trip. Joni and Bess feel indebted to Ev. They must go along with whatever Ev wants. Eventually, Ev becomes too demanding. Ev is the most privileged of the three and always gets her way. Joni and Bess start acting out.

What Bess doesn't realize is that Joni has plans of her own.

I like this story. It's for a younger audience; however, you can't beat a good mystery. Everyone can relate to being a teenager and making mistakes. The friendships forged at that age are supposed to last a lifetime. Often it's not the case.

A brutally honest tale of seeing the best in people to the point of delusion.

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This book really got under my skin in a way that not many do. I even found some elements of the story appearing in my dreams. Many parts of the story were uncomfortable, but overall I enjoyed this one very much. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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