Review: We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

by Heather Caliendo
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Editorial note: I received a copy of We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz is a fantastic psychological thriller full of tension and intrigue. Her best work yet!

If you’ve visited Book Club Chat before, you know that I have a love/hate relationship with thrillers. Of all the genres I read, I’m the most critical of this one. I think it’s because there’s so many generic stories that spiral into the absolutely ridiculous WTF territory. But I’m also picky because when you read a great thriller—it’s one of the most exciting storytelling experiences out there! So a well-written one is such an exciting ride.

I know when I read an Andrea Bartz novel, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be one of those exciting stories. And not only that but Andrea stories are intelligent and quite introspective. It’s not just about the crime itself but she covers misogyny, loneliness, competitiveness, alcoholism, friendship in all its complexity, and more.

As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of Andrea Bartz’s writing. I loved both The Lost Night and The Herd—I feel like I’m always encouraging people to read her stories because they are THAT good.

And it’s immediately apparent that We Were Never Here is bound to be a huge success (and BTW, it’s on my summer 2021 book club list). There’s so much buzz with this book and for good reason! I did not want this one to end. So good.

What’s the Book About

Emily and her best friend Kristen are on their annual reunion trip to Chile. It’s just the two of them exploring the country, which serves as a huge bonding trip. The trip starts off sounding like the ideal vacation. Until the last night of their trip when Emily finds a murder scene in their hotel room. Kristen says she killed the backpacker she brought back in an act of self defense. And Emily’s first reaction is—not again.

Beyond the perfect veneer of vacation life, it turns out that the year prior, Kristen killed another backpacker who attacked Emily.

After trying to cover up the crime, Emily goes back to Wisconsin to try to resume some resemblance of a normal life. However, Kristen shows up and announces her intention to move back to the city, which throws Emily for a tailspin—how is she supposed to forgot what happened when she has a daily reminder with Kristen?

And not only that but Kristen is acting like nothing even happened, which makes Emily start to question everything.

The Friendship

Beyond the murders, We Were Never Here really examines this friendship. Emily and Kristen met in college and have been super close since then. One of the promotions of this story says the friendship reminds them of the Thelma and Louise movie and I can see the comparison there. They have the ride or die—our friendship ranks above everything else—kind of vibe.

But what happens to this friendship when they are involved with not just one but two murder cover-ups? And how is Kristen able to pretend like nothing ever happened? I mean, they got away with murder not once but twice. What does that do to a person’s psyche? And while these two are bonded through their huge secrets, it’s clearly a huge weight on Emily. Kristen’s bizarre reaction is not helping either.

Kristen is very possessive of Emily—so much so that she discourages and dismisses (in her own way) any potential romantic partner for Emily.

There’s so much more I want to say but of course it’s gets into spoiler territory. But I will say this friendship definitely makes you think.

Verdict

Thrillers are hard to review because I really try not to spoiler anything. I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve read that give away huge plot points and twists and turns. So just know that I give this one ALL the stars! It’s such a fascinating, page-turner that covers a wide variety of topics. Andrea writes about these vacation destinations with a vivid eye but of course, they quickly take a terrifying turn. There’s so many layers to uncover with We Were Never Here so I highly recommend book clubs select this for a monthly read.

I love her other two books but this one is my favorite by far. For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.

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