31 Days of Spooky Reads: A Nearly Normal Family

18-year-old angry, rebellious, stubborn Stella is in jailed for the murder of 33-year-old Chris, businessman and millionaire.

Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. 

The question is: did she really murder him?

Stella comes home almost 2am the night of the murder, heading to the laundry room and then the bathroom for a shower. Her father finds a blood-stained blouse – Stella’s, no doubt. But why is it covered in blood? Why did she try to hide it in the laundry?

When police launch an investigation with Stella as a suspect, her father does something repulsive to him : he lies to the police. He knows Stella came home 2am, and that Chris died between 1am and 3 am. He says he was awake when Stella returned, and it was “exactly 11:45.” This gives Stella an alibi.

Stella’s mother has her own secrets as she tries to keep her daughter from being sentenced for murder.

As Stella’s imprisonment drags on to a trial, Stella’s father, who can usually detect when someone’s lying, knows that there are liars all around. One person is surprising – Amina, Stella’s best friend since preschool.

The book twists along, leaving you unsure of whether Stella murdered Chris. It seems likely, but at points, I felt unsure, wondering if it was Chris’ ex-girlfriend, who suffers from depression and personality disorders, and who has been stalking both Stella and Amina.

A Nearly Normal Family explores what you would do to protect the ones you love. Would you lie for them in court, hide evidence, and snap your moral compass?

Or would you let them stay locked up behind bars for the rest of their life?

I thought the character development was decent in this book. I thought some of the characters were cookie-cutter, but that the template did well to help you understand each one’s role. I did like that everyone had secrets – parts of themselves that they’d prefer hidden in the dark.

The book was told in three parts – father, Stella, and mother. Each filled in gaps the others left in their “testimony” because of lack of knowledge. All this helped to create a full picture.

I thought the ending made sense – and though I was mildly surprised, at the same time, I almost expected it. You’d do anything to protect the ones you love, even lie through your teeth.

Favorite quotes from A Nearly Normal Family:

When I was little, the adult world constantly told me I was a good girl.” Her face twisted as if she had tasted something nasty. I didn’t quite understand what she meant. “‘Good girl,’ they said, patting me on the head. ‘Ulrika’s such a good girl.’ In the end I had no choice but to become that good girl everyone was expecting.”

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