A Nearly Normal Family #SpoilerAlert

Alright, you all know the drill. If you want to be very spoiled before reading this book then keep going. But if you don’t like spoilers you’d better click off now, because we’re about to break down the entire novel! I’m never sure why people enjoy spoilers – I personally like to avoid them, but hey: to each their own, and I’m happy to give you guys the spoilers you ask for! So let’s go!

The novel starts out almost immediately with Stella Sandell a teenager in Sweden, being questioned for the murder of the rich, older Christopher Olsen (a man almost fifteen years older than Stella who she’s been ‘seeing’ for a few months). She’s almost instantly sent to jail after speaking with the police. The lawyers, officers, and every other human being involved in this case will not allow Adam Sandell (Stella’s father and a pastor in their community) or Ulrika Sandell (Stella’s mother and prosecutor herself) to see their daughter.

They’re basically expected to just wait everything out until the trial. But of course, Stella’s parents have their own secrets and lies. Adam pays a visit to one of the eye witnesses who put Stella at the scene of the crime, basically trying to determine that she was an unreliable witness. He also lies to the police – providing Stella an alibi for the time in which Olsen was murdered – stating he was awake when she got home that night (true) and that she was home well before the murder took place (lie). He also neglects to tell the cops that when Stella did arrive home, she immediately took a shower and threw her clothes (including a blood stained t-shirt) into the laundry which Adam later tries to hide beneath more dirty laundry.

The police then search their house, never finding Stella’s cell phone or the bloody t-shirt, which seem to have gone missing.

It’s later learned that both parents have lied to police in order to protect their daughter. Adam provided her false alibi and Ulrika got rid of the phone.

Adam becomes obsessed with figuring out what actually happened the night of the murder. He doesn’t want to believe his teenage daughter could kill a man. However, he’s at constant odds with himself, recalling a lot of issues Stella has exhibited her entire life. She was a bit of a bully at school, the teachers and other children tended to fear her. And the more details that Adam learns, the more he realizes he isn’t entirely sure he knows who his daughter is.

He continues his own mini (and illegal) investigation, going to the house of Linda Lokind (Olsen’s ex-girlfriend who told police he had been abusive to her at the time of their relationship) and pressing her for information that might tie her to Olsen’s murder. He realizes that she has the same shoes as Stella (the very shoe’s that belong to the footprint found at the scene of the crime.)

But if Adam is uncertain about whether or not Stella murdered Olsen, or if his ex-girlfriend did – or someone else altogether – what he’s certain about is that Amina Besic (Stella’s long time best friend) knows more than she’s admitting to. So naturally he tries to pry the information from her whenever he’s able to find her alone.

While Stella’s father is going relatively crazy trying to figure things out Stella stays in jail.

It isn’t until the last (maybe) forty pages that we learn all of the deep dark secrets that Stella’s mom and best friend were hiding.

It turns out that Amina had gone to Ulrika the day after Stella was brought into custody to confess to Ulrika (an attorney herself) that she was actually there with Stella when Chris was murdered in the park. She admits that Chris raped her and she was running away from him when she bumped into Stella (who had been riding around on her bike trying to find either Chris or Amina).

Amina confesses that she’s the one who stabbed Chris to death.

Ulrika has to decide whether she saves her daughter, by bringing Amina to the police station to admit to her crime, or … let Stella sit in jail until the day of the trial when Amina would testify, surprising everyone in the courthouse that Chris had raped her.

Essentially Ulrika explains to Amina that in Sweden (where the narrative is set) that in order for a person to be acquitted, the defence attorney simply has to prove that there is a possibility that someone else could have committed the crime. So basically if the jury determined that it could possibly have been Stella but also possibly been Amina (both had motive and reason) they’d have to let Stella go free.

Amina is the one who confesses to the murder of Chris, telling Ulrika that Stella was only with her.

So they decide to let Stella stay in prison (not letting her in on the secret because they know Stella would do anything to protect Amina.)

At the trial Stella is acquitted because of the possibility that she might not have been the only other person capable and with cause to murder Chris.

The epilogue reveals that, essentially, Amina wasn’t the one to stab and murder Chris. Stella was. Which was the opposite of what Ulrika was told and believed when she decided she would save Amina from prison and lay her daughter’s life out on the line for it.

At the end of the day it’s implied that Amina and Stella had planned for Ulrika to use her law skills to protect Amina and hope that it would also save Stella as well. And it did. Basically Ulrika was under the impression Amina killed Chris and that Ulkrika and Amina were playing the legal system to protect Amina. Except that Stella was the murderer, not Amina. It leaves off with the implication that while Ulrika might have been manipulating the legal system, Amina and Stella were the puppeteers, playing Ulrika so that Stella would be set free. This solidifies the almost twisted friendship the two girls have – playing the people who thought they were playing the system for them. It just goes to show how truly close the best friends are.

Very sinister and creepy. Sent a shiver down my spine. Good book!

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