We Were Never Here

We Were Never Here is a new thriller from Andrea Bartz. This book chooses to focus more on the aftermath of what would generally be classed as the thriller plot.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Any quotes are from the advanced reader copy. They may or may not reflect the published edition.

From Goodreads:

An annual backpacking trip has deadly consequences in a chilling new novel from the bestselling author of The Lost Night and The Herd.

Emily is having the time of her life–she’s in the mountains of Chile with her best friend, Kristen, on their annual reunion trip, and the women are feeling closer than ever. But on the last night of their trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she’d been flirting with attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more shocking: The scene is horrifyingly similar to last year’s trip, when another backpacker wound up dead. Emily can’t believe it’s happened again–can lightning really strike twice?

Back home in Wisconsin, Emily struggles to bury her trauma, diving head-first into a new relationship and throwing herself into work. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit, Emily is forced to confront their violent past. The more Kristen tries to keep Emily close, the more Emily questions her friend’s motives. As Emily feels the walls closing in on their coverups, she must reckon with the truth about her closest friend. Can she outrun the secrets she shares with Kristen, or will they destroy her relationship, her freedom–even her life?

“For a wild moment, I pictured pushing her.”

Have you ever watched a thriller and it kept you on the edge for almost the entire movie? And then when the movie finally reaches a peak- it simply, ends? Instead of peaks and lows, you are simply on the edge, suspicious of everything happening, only to be somewhat let down at the end? That’s how this book read. Even during the scenes of violence, I felt disconnected from them. As the most aggressive scenes happened immediately, with little emotional connection, I wasn’t sure how to proceed with this book. Described often by others as “backpacking went wrong”, I have to say, this was disappointing.

Emily is a frustrating, gullible character.

The way gaslighting was portrayed wasn’t necessarily inaccurate. It was simply the way in which Emily so easily accepted it. As someone with a long history of being gaslit, I felt this was written accurately- but it didn’t change how much I hated reading it. Emily doesn’t begin truly suspecting her friend until much later in the book. Kristen benefits from quite a lot of rich, white woman privilege, but that’s never directly addressed or looked at. The way she was handled in the very end felt convoluted and rushed as well.

There were opportunities for more interesting scenes, and they weren’t used.

Emily and Kristen go to a lakehouse in the middle of nowhere, which would have been the perfect setting for this book to have a peak. I genuinely expected something terrible to happen, and my heart was in my throat for that entire part. But nothing happens. Emily finds information that’s new, starts to suspect Kristen, and that’s all. There’s so much groundwork for more blatant manipulation or thrilling aspects. However, Bartz Failed to use them repeatedly, which left me unimpressed.

Overall, this book wasn’t what I expected.

I expected more on the backpacking trip gone wrong, and less on the “friends can be manipulators too” plot. Re-reading the summary, this may have been my fault. Re-reading the reviews, many still treat it the way I expected. This book definitely falls into a psychological thriller, but realistically, it is just an abusive friend. Thriller aspects, sure, but not thrilling to read.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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