This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston (ARC Review)
I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks so much to the publisher for granting me the opportunity to read an ARC of this.
Kate works at a district attorney’s office as an intern, where her new job responsibility is to be on the prosecuting team that’s working on a potential negligent-homicide case. Five privileged young high schoolers went hunting the morning after a rager; with their bodies full of alcohol and weed, one boy accidentally shot another and killed him. The problem is that none of the other boys are giving up who did it, and considering how much influence all their families have in the community, it looks like all four will get off scot-free. Kate’s not having it. She had gotten to know the boy who was killed over the past few weeks; they’d been texting, and if she were to be asked, she’d say that she might even have fallen for him. No way is she going to let his killer walk free. But how’s she going to uncover the truth and what really happened that morning?
This Is Our Story has an enticing premise; who, in their right mind, could pass up a murder mystery with privileged students, potential friendships gone awry, and a young girl’s determination to do right by the boy she loved? Just by reading the synopsis, you’re hooked because it sounds fun. And for the most part, fun is exactly what it is. The novel’s fairly short- just over 300 pages, and Elston does a brilliant job of launching you right into the story. The death happens on the first two pages; the investigation and consequent events take off immediately after. As a result, you’re pulled in almost immediately into the legal and social aspects of the story, even if it’s a tad predictable.
Elston also does a good job when it comes to pacing; often with young-adult mysteries, I’ve noticed that the actual meat of the storyline gets pushed to the backseat to make way for romance or other unnecessary, filler drama. In this one, the mystery and the case very much remains at the forefront of the story, with the filler remaining what it is- filler. And the filler is also fairly substantial; despite the high-school setting, Elston doesn’t rely on tropes and over-done clichés to give life to the world she’s building. There is some romance, which wasn’t anything to write home about but was still sweet and believable, and remains at the back where it should be. There’s a strong female friendship- and even though it wasn’t explored or developed as much as I had hoped, the sentiment and the feeling was there, which I always appreciate.
But having said that, I felt that our protagonist’s life didn’t feel as fleshed out as it could have been. I really liked Kate as a character; she was smart, respectful, conscientious and non-judgmental. It felt as if she genuinely cared about the people around her, and didn’t make these snide asides that so often put me off characters. She was perfectly likable, which was perhaps why I wanted to see more of her. We know that she’s passionate about photography, but we get to see little of her passion outside of her job. She had a complicated relationship with her single-mother, and we only saw that mentioned in passing; I felt that it could have been explored more, which would have given Kate that extra development. What about Kate’s education and career plans, which were left hanging at the end of the book? There was room for more in there, room to give Kate’s character the push she needed to be realized as a person.
Another minor issue I had was that some of the legal technicalities raised skeptical questions in my head- not that I claim to be any kind of expert, but sometimes you read about something complex and advanced that you’ve seen on TV, in movies, in other books and you ask, “Would this really happen this way?” I don’t mean to say that Elston didn’t do her research; perhaps it was just over-skepticisim on my part, and the book was maybe the most realistic thing about the topic, but I feel that the cynic inside me would have been appeased if a little more world-building had gone into the novel. Although the mystery was the forefront, if the legal aspect of the novel had been focused on a bit more, perhaps it would have been believable enough for me to put aside my reservations. Because as of now, I found myself questioning tiny things after every few pages- which really took me out of the narrative.
Ultimately, This Is Our Story does many things right, and does many things just okay. It’s an enjoyable, fast-paced, fun read with a likable main character and just enough to keep you satisfied, but if you’re looking for a crazy, twisted, unpredictable thriller, perhaps put this off for a little bit.