Member Reviews

I loved this story of three teens - best friends and the growing pains of privileged girls living in Calabasas and how there’s least summer of school a trip to Greece changes their lives. Two of the three are reunited years later when someone goes missing - it is a book of sadness, longing, regret and mistakes - beautifully written and engaging - I’m just gonna 4,star every book I like

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I’m fully expecting this one to be a sleeper hit or a celebrity book club pick for May depending on the whim of the people in play.

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"A summer in Greece for three best friends ends in the unthinkable when only two return home in this new novel from Ella Berman....

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 is tangled up in a crime eerily similar to that one fateful night in Greece. And when she asks Bess to come back to LA to support her, Bess has a decision to make.

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? And what if she doesn't like what she finds?"

Now this is The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants I can get behind!

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"Show me an eighteen-year-old saint, and I'll show you a liar."

The summer after their senior year of high school, three best friends jet off to Greece for the trip of a lifetime. When things take a tragic turn, Joni and Bess are left to pick up the pieces.

This was an incredibly well written book. Told in dual timelines, readers get to experience the fateful summer of 2008 and the aftermath of those events ten years later. While the present day chapters dragged a bit for me at times, I still couldn't put this down.

The characters are complex (aren't all teenage girls?) and I thought it was really interesting to compare and contrast how each girl dealt with their grief and trauma. The plot made me uncomfortable (in the best way) because I could so vividly remember being 18. I wasn't as wild as the girls in the book but this story proves how the most basic teenage acts (such as, say... using song lyrics for a Facebook photo album) can be judged and misconstrued.

"We thought we knew everything about sacrifice and loyalty and how the world worked... we exaggerated stories to impress each other, and we almost always pretended we were tougher than we were. We wanted to be fearless."

If you like literary fiction with suspense and/or you've ever been a teenage girl, I highly recommend Before We Were Innocent.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book; all opinions are my own. Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for allowing me to be an early reader.

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Ten years ago, Bess and Joni spend a summer in Greece with their best friend Evangeline. When Evangeline dies, Bess and Joni find themselves suspects, their brash personalities vilified by the media, but ultimately no charges are filed against them. Since then, Bess has kept the lowest profile possible while Joni has become an outspoken motivational speaker. When Joni's fiancée disappears, Bess comes out of hiding to support Joni and must face what really happened all those summers ago.

I was immediately drawn into Berman's captivating story about intense female friendships, for it's always the ones who know us best who can hurt us the most. Before We Were Innocent is a slow-burn mystery that serves as a fascinating character study. I loved the look at Bess, Joni and Ev's friendship and the examination of how easily our lives can be cherry-picked to paint us white or black, when we are all shades of grey.

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I like this book and enjoyed the mystery. The book toggles back and forth between the present and 10 years before when one of their friends dies. My biggest issue is that the ending felt rushed and incomplete.

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This is extremely well-written and original. The pacing gains momentum the more you read.
When they were 18 years old, the very wealthy Evangeline invites her friends Bess and Joni to her family’s home in a small town in Greece. Tragedy strikes, and Bess and Joni have their words and actions as impetuous 18 years olds held against them, which radically changes their lives.
Ten years later, Joni shows up on Bess’s door asking for help. Bess has essentially turned herself into a hermit to avoid media and public scrutiny, and now Joni is threatening to undo the privacy Bess has worked so hard to cultivate.
There is the mystery of what is happening in the present as well as what happened in the past, and the story is told in the alternating timelines. They are both harrowing.
NetGalley provided an advance reader copy of this novel, which RELEASES APRIL 4, 2023.

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I feel like this could be a crossover for YA. It has the mystery and thriller vibes as we wait to see what happened. But I wanted more from parts of it.

Thanks NetGalley for this ARC.

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I like that this book features a dual timeline showing the events unfolding in Greece after Bess and Joni’s high school graduation, and the two women reconvening ten years later to then figure out what happened to Joni’s fiancé, Willa. However, I feel like this book dances between the genre lines of thriller and contemporary fiction in a way that didn’t quite work. It reads more like fiction, but the plot is largely about the women trying to figure out what happened to Evangeline and Willa which makes it feel more like a thriller. As the police uncover more information in both timelines, Bess wonders how much she can truly trust Joni. Again, the unfolding felt very much like a thriller, but the time spent on Bess’ feelings and learning how to live her life again felt more akin to contemporary fiction.

The book also leaves a lot open at the end. So if you’re looking for a buttoned-up ending, you won’t find that in this book. But if you like ambiguous endings and an interesting story that sways between genres, this book might be for you.

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Reminded me a tiny smidge of a more grown up When We Were Liars. I see some possible YA crossover appeal.

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This gave me big Amanda Knox vibes, which is not a bad thing. The story alternates between two timelines - 2018, when Bess Winter and Joni Le Bon are in their late 20s and reconnect when Joni, out of the blue, shows up at Bess' house in the desert outside of LA. She needs Bess to lie for her to help her cover up an affair she's been having. Soon after, Joni's fiance is reported missing and the police think there could be foul play. Bess is transported back to the summer of 2008, when she, Joni, and their other best friend Evangeline went to Greece for the summer between high school and college, staying in Evangeline's family home in a tiny village. Things went off the rails then, and they seem to be going off the rails in the 2018 timeline as well, interrupting the carefully isolated life that Bess has made for herself. One thing I really liked about this was the way that Berman didn't shy away from portraying teenaged Bess, Joni, and Evangeline as the privileged, entitled jerks that they were, intent on hurting each other in a way that it sometimes seems like only teenaged girls can. The role of the media, particularly how they fixated on Joni and Bess and captured them at their very worst, most ego-driven and immature moment, and the way that defined them. I was interested from start to finish, although I thought things raced a bit quickly at the end when the rest of the book felt pretty carefully paced.

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Oh, our poor girls.

Our girls (in the past) are silly, bold, yet insecure, wild things. And despite the way they try to act so very mature, they really are just children playing at being grown up. Your heart hurts for them.

But, you hurt even more when two of them are adults and everything circles back to those horrible days when they lost their friend. You hurt because, even though you want to, you can’t like them. You just get so very frustrated that they’re still those immature girls underneath…and still so very toxic.

I moved between 4 stars and 5 on this one. It wasn’t that the book leaves you uncomfortable (it does, but in the right way). But I felt that the author actually held back instead of just going full force with the story. For instance: the prison portion of things. This would have given us a chance to really feel for our girls, but the author literally gives us a few lines of…nothing.

I did like the book. I was engaged and interested and was hoping that things would finally end up okay for our girls. But I will admit that the end left me a little dissatisfied.

A good overall read and I’d read the author again.

• ARC via Publisher

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A scintillating read, this book delves into the trauma of old friends and the issues of restarting that friendship. It was a slow build to start but the author weaved the past and present in a way that fed you details and gave you more.

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This was compulsively good! I could not get enough of this book about toxic friendships and a secret that has been buried for years. From the first chapter of Joni arriving on Bess’s doorstep and what then unravels the story about their summer after graduation and how one fateful night changed their lives forever. This one felt very, look over your shoulder eerie and I couldn’t pick it up at night. I love Ella Berman’s writing. She really places you into the setting whether it’s in Greece or back in Malibu, tho a chilling novel I could feel the sun on my shoulders!

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Ten years ago, what should have been a trip filled with sunshine and memories forever altered the lives of friends Joni and Bess when their friend, Evangeline died. Both girls were accused of conspiring in Ev’s death and found themselves in a Greek prison awaiting their very uncertain fate.
Acquitted of any wrongdoing, and returned to the states, the experience has led to very different and divergent lives for Bess and Joni. While Bess has locked herself away from the world, working and living away from the public eye, Joni has capitalized on her infamy, becoming the best selling leader of a self-improvement empire.
But now, ten years later, Joni is at Bess’s door. Joni’s fiancée has gone missing and Joni turns to Bess for support. All the insecurities and secrets from Greece bubble to the surface as the police and the media focus on the friends once again. Can Bess face being in the spotlight again? Can she face being so thoroughly enmeshed in Joni’s life or should she put more distance between them? More important of all- is Joni responsible for Willa’s disappearance?

Before We Were Innocent is an upcoming thriller from Ella Berman with a strong summer vacation and impending doom vibe throughout. The story is engaging, the “what if” moments tantalizing, and the secrets so thick you can barely make your way through them. Berman has done a fantastic job of highlighting the complexities of female relationships—especially those on the cusp between girlhood and adulthood.

The story of what happened to these girls after their friends death (how the media turned innocent actions into maniacal ones and exposed their most private lives) is heartbreaking, but so similar to what is seen in the media so often (I couldn’t help thinking of Amanda Knox). The pacing and intensity of the story was enough to pull me from the beginning to the end with no lulls.

Before We Were Innocent is such an engaging and intense read!

*I received a copy of Before We Were Innocent from Berkeley Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

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I wanted to love this one, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It felt quite a bit like the Amanda Knox story, and I’m sorry to say I just couldn’t get into it.

It already has some excellent reviews, however, so I would say give it a try for yourself.

My thanks to NetGalley and Berkley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Before We Were Innocent starts off strong, lags in the middle, and ends as strongly as it started. I started this book back in November and had to put it down about 50% in because it wasn't keeping my attention. There were so many words that weren't telling me anything that seemed important to the story. I went into it so intrigued by the premise that I flew through the first 25%. Once we hit the middle of the story is when it started to drag. I felt like what I was reading wasn't important to the story. I ended up putting it down for about 2 months because I had no desire to pick it back up. I decided to try again at the beginning of January, and I'm glad I did. The last 25% brings revelations of Bess and Joni's past, and Bess finally starts to confront Joni about things that just don't make sense about what happened that night in Greece. Bess seemed to have rose-colored glasses when it came to Joni, and it wasn't until 75% in that she finally started coming to her senses.

There were some good messages about friendship and grief, especially the analysis of how friendships sometimes aren't meant to last a long time, but sometimes there are events that tie you together forever and it only leads to heartbreak.

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Absolute perfection.

The storytelling was exemplary. I felt like I was one of the three girls living through my teens again. The delicate way in which the author described women friendships is just amazing. What girl doesn’t experience everything she talks about in this book minus the mystery death part.

I couldn’t get enough of the book, of the friendship of the mystery and then devouring the shells of people that were left after.

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I enjoyed this book. I got into it as soon as I started reading, and I was eager to keep going. I was a little disappointed in the ending. I was hoping it would end with a bit more of a bang than it actually did. It’s still a good book and I recommend it for readers who like psychological thrillers.

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This book has a new take similar to the Amanda Knox case. It was an interesting take and it kept me turning the pages. The characters were fresh and it is definitely worth a read.

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