Melanie and Michael Gold and Gus and James Harte have been neighbors and friends from the time Melanie and Gus were pregnant with their first children. The kids, Emily Gold and Chris Harte, grew up together, became a couple, and are now high school seniors preparing for college. As the story opens Emily and Chris are on a date at a local carousel when a shot is fired. Cut to the hospital: Emily, shot in the head, is dead; Chris is disoriented with 70 stitches for a scalp laceration. When the police arrive Chris says that he and Emily had a suicide pact but that he fainted and fell before he could shoot himself. Before long Chris is arrested for murdering Emily.
The book moves back and forth between the past and present, going all the way back to the time the Golds and Hartes first met as two young married couples. They soon became close friends, dining out together, vacationing together, confiding in each other, and so on. The two sets of parents were prosperous, happy, and well-adjusted and - before the tragedy - thrilled that Chris and Emily were sweethearts. We also come to know a great deal about both Emily and Chris, and see how their bond developed.
In the present, the Golds are devastated by Emily's death, bewildered by the notion that she was suicidal and they had no inkling. Their daughter was a talented artist with applications on her desk to the finest art schools, including the Sorbonne. What would make her want to kill herself? When Chris is arrested the Golds at least have someone to blame.
During the course of the story we see how each person in the Gold and Harte family deals with the tragedy, separately and together. We observe Chris as he waits in jail for his trial, a difficult and harrowing experience. The last part of the book is a well-wrought courtroom drama, including a fierce rivalry between the zealous prosecutor and Chris's capable defense attorney.
I know many readers gave this book rave reviews but for me it was just okay. For one thing I didn't buy the book's basic premise.
Though Emily had legitimate concerns I couldn't believe they would make her suicidal. Moreover, I couldn't accept that - once Chris knew Emily wanted to kill herself - he didn't get help. After all, he had plenty of time.
END SPOILER ALERT!
Thus, though the book addresses an important issue - teen angst that's invisible to the parents - it didn't ring true to me. I also thought the book was about twice as long as it needed to be. It seemed to go on and on and I got impatient reading it.