Written by Jennifer Donaldson
“Lies You Never Told Me” is a complex book. We meet four titular characters, Elyse, Gabe, Catherine, and Sasha. Sasha and Gabe are breaking up, and Sasha is hell bent on preventing that from happening. Gabe meets Catherine and starts to fall in love with her. In a separate perspective, Elyse begins to fall in love with her drama teacher, Aiden.
After this begins, I don’t really understand where it goes. This is a book for teens, but it does incorporate very adult themes. They include: drug addiction, sexual harassment, incest, gun violence, and inappropriate relationships.
I have a few things that I extremely dislike about this book. Teacher-student relationships are disgusting and it only turns sour about 10 percent before the book finishes. Not good, I worry that too many teens will read this and not realize the manipulation behind this. I worry, because I used to enjoy the television show, “Pretty Little Liars”, which completely glorified an inappropriate teacher relationship. In this book, we receive a more negative result, but it’s still relatively glorified.
I also find the language and vocabulary to be immature. I understand that teens may use some of the slang and the social media that is incorporated into this book. It severely ages the book and makes it cringe-worthy. “Throwing shade”. Sending threats over Snapchat. This may very well be a normal thing for teens, and I understand I am reading a teen fiction. However, it would be nice if other ages could enjoy this too, not only sixteen-year-olds.
A lot of the language feels strange through a first-person narrative. It sometimes reads like fan fiction. When Sasha rubs her chest against Gabe’s in her bikini top. It just sounds like a narc is speaking to teens, rather than a teen actually speaking. I feel that a lot of the narrative over-explains. There’s a portion I had annotated where Gabe introduces his six-year-old sister with Downs Syndrome. “Oh, but she’s not stupid. Her development is just delayed”. Yes, because the reader is going to need that further explanation, thanks.
Certain aspects of the story line aren’t interesting to me at all. I understand that because Elyse receives little to no attention from her drug-addicted mother, she seeks asylum in her perverted teacher. Is that really necessary? This feels like Degrassi. Oh, there isn’t any drug addiction? Well, it can’t be a book for teens without drug addiction, sexual harassment, cyberbullying, affairs with teachers, or guns??!?
Unfortunately, a lot of this is makes for a slightly unlikeable book. However, it wasn’t unreadable. I finished it. The last quarter of it was very climatic and intriguing. I just wish the reveal / spoiler / twist wasn’t what it turned out to be. It confused me, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s fleshed out enough for my liking. I understand I’m reading an ARC, but it’s not going to be changed dramatically before final printing. I think the twist is a bit “WOW HEY LOOK. I want it to be CRAZY and TWISTED and COMPLEX. Look at me!!!” It’s confusing and took me about 10 minutes of talking out loud to understand it. It wasn’t a “Sixth Sense” reveal, where it doesn’t make sense, and then you breathe it in, and you’re shocked by the brilliance. This was just wow, okay, that’s confusing. I get it, but why was most of that necessary? Not to give away the twist, but if the story was told in a different narrative without the big secret twist, I might have liked the story more.
I definitely recommend this book, if you like young adult dramas, like “Riverdale”, “Pretty Little Liars”, “Degrassi”, and maybe a couple others. I think I’m too old to enjoy this anymore. I had initially thought that about “One of Us is Lying”, but I was completely wrong. I think that although I’m twenty-two now, I can still enjoy teen fiction, but perhaps more selectively than I used to enjoy.
I received a complimentary copy through Razorbill Books for reviewing purposes. Thank you.