Popular high school kid Griffin is dead, and Clara’s sister Emily has been arrested for murder. Only Clara knows why Emily may have hated Griffin enough to kill him, and it’s all because of something Clara told her.
What Happened that Night is an intense, at times disturbing, book, and I’m glad the author was thoughtful enough to give a trigger warning and list of supports at the beginning. The novel alternates between timelines: before Griffin was murdered, and four months after Emily was arrested.
I like how Cameron takes us into Clara’s mind. We see her struggle to return to some semblance of normalcy, and her alienation from her peers as she realizes most of them have already moved on. There’s a scene where she notices that the school has reassigned Emily’s locker to someone else that didn’t really dwell on the moment, but I found her reaction really moving.
While there is a mystery component to the book — what really happened on the night of Griffin’s murder? — it was more the kind of mystery that somewhat unfolded alongside Clara’s emotional journey through both timelines, rather than a mystery that the characters actively solve. There is a ‘detective’ character in the form of the girl who inherits Emily’s locker, who also happens to be an aspiring journalist interested in the case. There are some clues dropped about disturbing events from Griffin’s past, and other clues dropped in conversations with other characters.
But ultimately, this is a story about Clara, and how she grapples with her relationships to significant people in her life. Griffin’s death totally upends her life, but so does the event she believes to be the cause, and so too does the things she learns as the mystery unravels. I like how her character grows over the story, and how she ends up reclaiming her life by the end. She’s been through a lot, but Cameron uses just a light enough touch that the story remains captivating and entertaining despite some dark topics.
Content Warnings: The novel includes at least one graphic (though not gratuitous) scene of rape, mentions of other instances of violence (including rape, murder, and one instance of animal mutilation that thankfully is light on details). There are also a few incidents of stalking and verbal abuse.
Thank you to Wattpad Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.