If the perfect summer thriller existed, well, Andrea Bartz's We Were Never Here is it. At a time when we're all experiencing a heavy dose of wanderlust, Bartz's page-turner transports readers to a backpacking trip in Chile between two best friends: Emily and Kristen. The girls' annual reunion trip goes wrong (again) when one of them may or may not have accidentally killed a fellow backpacker (again).
The novel is filled with smart, suspenseful writing and Bartz's signature theme of female empowerment. As one #ReadWithMC reviewer notes, "The story had what I like to call a snowball pace where everything starts off calm and in control until it subtly builds and builds until BOOM everything falls apart."
Find out exactly what readers thought about Marie Claire's August book club pick (especially that ending!), below.
"Our main characters Emily and Kristen are best friends and enjoying their time together on their annual 'getaway' trip. However, things go awry when Emily finds Kristen in their room with a dead backpacker—even worse, this isn't the first time it's happened.
As soon as I read the synopsis I knew that We Were Never Here was going to be an interesting read and WOW it blew me away! The story immediately grabs you and refuses to let go, I literally read over 100 pages in one sitting and the only reason I stopped was because it was after midnight and I had work the next day!
The story had what I like to call a snowball pace where everything starts off calm and in control until it subtly builds and builds until BOOM everything falls apart. I love this effect in stories because it is so gripping especially with the fantastic writing.
The characters were so compelling and on the surface level Emily and Kristen seem to have the perfect friendship. The author does an amazing job of giving these characters such depth and of giving little hints to the reader to show them how things might not be as idyllic as they seem. Also all throughout the book, you're never quite sure of what the truth really is, it is so psychological & deliciously twisty. The writing was so convincing as well as the anxiety and paranoia that builds that it almost felt like I was living it! There were so many twists that actually made me gasp out loud because I never saw them coming and it is one of those stories where I don't want to go in to too much detail because I don't want to spoil anything, but OMG THAT ENDING?!
We Were Never Here is a tense, heart racing, and nail-biting thriller that was absolutely brilliant! A must read and it truly takes the question 'what would you do for your friends?' to a whole new level!" —@booksblogandcandle
"I thought it would be 'cute' to read this thriller about besties who backpack and travel the world before an upcoming girls trip weekend. Ummm…I really hope the girl weekend has nothing that reminds me of this book because y’all—Kristen and Emily’s friendship, travels, and adventures are messed up. 😂
That being said, I loved reading this psychological thriller that had me second guessing who was being manipulative and what was just coincidence in this page turner. Twice Kristen and Emily’s backpacking adventures ended with dire consequences and now they’re trying to live life as normal and it’s not going well.
There are some legit trigger warnings with this including sexual assault, suicide, manipulation, and abuse of a minor. I always try to include these as I would hate for someone to go into reading it without warning. If you have specific questions, let me know.
I couldn’t put this one down. And it was a satisfying ending in my opinion, which is really what some would say the most important part of a thriller." —@shobizreads
"This gripping story about two friends traveling is very intriguing. Since I have traveled and lived in different countries, I loved that most of the drama takes place when Emily and Kristen travel.
Creepy moments: The backpacker storyline in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was creepy for me. I just moved back home in June from living in Phnom Penh for two years. There are a lot of backpackers passing through and most hotels are strict about not letting you check-in without a passport. Emily’s story about getting a hotel where they were not strict on checking ID could be possible. Kristen was creepy AF. She seemed obsessed with Emily and had an odd history of having people close to her die while growing up. It would have been interesting to see her POV here.
The 'No! Don’t do it' moments: Emily knew that something is off with Kristen, yet she constantly gives her chances. Like why go on a trip with her to Chile? Even after Emily knew she wanted to keep a distance between her and Kristen, she still kept giving in to meeting Kristen...alone!
Loves: I do love the concept of friendship here and being one’s 'ride or die.' I also like that this did not end up being some twisted love story between the two friends, although this thought did cross my mind. On a side note, I loved that the narrator Becca Tobin pronounces the 'P' in Phom —this is how locals pronounce it.
What I would have loved:
I found much of the story to be focused on Emily’s thoughts and it was not as creepy or scary as I expected. There was no shock to me about how it ended. I would have liked to see a big twist at the end." —@mae.rox.wanders
"Honest synopsis: During their annual backpacking trip, best friends Emily and Kristen find themselves experiencing deja vu when they find themselves having to cover up the death of another backpacker under eerily similar circumstances to their previous trip to Cambodia.
Review: I have no idea where I wanted this book to go, but I loved every twist and turn. Was it Emily? Was it Kristen? Is Emily just overthinking everything and it's nothing? You only experience this through Emily's POV, and she often gets hyper-focused, so parts of the book feel drawn out and redundant. I would've loved for a couple of Kristen chapters.
Recommendation: Yes, but be aware, this has strong Single White Female energy." —@an_honest_synopsis
"Emily and Kristen are college best friends that have a yearly tradition to backpack the world and meet new people together. During last year’s trip to Cambodia, Emily was sexually assaulted in which lead the girls to killing the man and disposing of him. Emily struggles daily with the weight of their secret, but Kristen acts as if nothing went wrong.
A year later, they are off to Chile and ironically, the story lives to tell the tale again. They find themselves in another situation disposing of a dead body after a sexual assault. Emily can’t believe this is happening again and is now questioning if their tragic past really was a mere coincidence. Is Kristen really the friend she says she is or is Kristen harboring a secret life?
The story starts out super strong and captured my attention Instantly. But then the middle dragged on a little with Emily’s detailed reflection of all things that happened during their trips and her daily struggles. Throughout the book, I really didn’t know if I had trust in Emily and her narrative because I was expecting a huge twist that made my jaw drop, which was why I kept reading. It was so suspenseful. Some parts in the middle were a little redundant, lots of repetitive thoughts and feelings exposed. Then comes the ending. It ended with a bang that just keeps you wondering." —@nottoomanybooks
"How many dead bodies need to pile up before someone isn’t an 'innocent bystander' anymore? This is the question Emily finds herself asking when she experiences the same terrifying situation two years in a row.
A year ago in Cambodia, Emily experienced the terror of being assaulted, put to a stop just in time by her best friend Kristen, who silenced her attacker forever. A year later, Emily is beginning to heal from the trauma and decides to brave another trip with Kristen to Chile. But when she walks in on Kristen, terrified and confused, standing over another dead body, she starts to wonder if they attract bad attention or if there is something more going on.
Thoughts: This book gave off Amanda Knox vibes and mixed it with an obsessive female friendship. It was intriguing from the start and had Andrea Bartz' signature theme of female empowerment. Women traveling alone, women surviving trauma, and women dealing with boundaries in their lives. The tension and fear of the story is filled with underlying themes that I enjoyed reading about.
You never quite know who to trust in this story, which makes it all the better. Bartz developed the characters a lot in a short amount of time and it helped me connect with the story. The topic of mental health and therapy comes up often and is an important component added to this story. Was the story believable? No. But it was almost like a guilty pleasure, so addicting that you can’t turn away. I recommend this book to those who like the single white female vibe or those who find it creepy to travel alone." —@thrillerbookbabe
"Woah! It’s a page-turner that centers around a toxic female friendship. The story was unraveled at an even pace and each chapter ended in a cliffhangers so I plowed through it having to know what would happen next.
I enjoy stories about complicated friendships and also love thrillers so this was like the perfect pairing for me. I really got inside the head of Emily through the powerful writing and couldn’t decide for myself if her best friend was ride or die or toxic and possessive!
I would have given it 5 💗s, but still times the character Emily’s internally dialogue was a hit exhausting.Can we have a moment of appreciation for Emily’s boyfriend?! He’s a real MVP. 😜 The ending left me a little baffled and wanting to discuss! Read this if you have a ride-or-die best friend, enjoy traveling, and enjoy a murder mystery." —@aprils_bookedup