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Lies I Told

Review

Lies I Told

Meet Grace Fontaine. At least, that’s her name for today. 
 
In LIES I TOLD by Michelle Zink, Grace’s adopted family moves from city to city, changing their surnames and backstories and developing complicated plots in order to con people out of their wealth. Grace and her older brother Parker must study up on the area’s social scene and ingratiate themselves with the local kids in order to get to the heart of each crime. 
 
Grace is finally realizing that she isn’t able to be her true self in this dishonest lifestyle, and is aching to find something genuine. Like she says at the beginning, Playa Hermosa is different, but we’ve yet to find out why. It’s a town near the beach filled with desperate housewives, creepy singing neighbors and a high school that is basically a Hollister-store version of A Cinderella Story. It’s an environment where a lot can happen, for sure.
 
At first we are introduced to stereotypical characters and a simple set-up (complications will arise further on). The writing starts out kind of slowly and generically with sentences like “his words jabbed painfully at my heart.” Grace also tends to repeat a lot of the same cheesy monologues about authenticity (“Now I started to feel the truth of it… who I really was” and “What if the real Grace didn’t want to stay undercover anymore?”), which made me feel like I was reading her college essays or something. But once the plot builds steam, the adventure becomes more and more gripping.
 
Take a rich enigmatic family, a band of criminals with rebellious children and a meddlesome popular girl and toss in the complicated maze of the high school social scene and what do you get? A really fun story! 
 
There are some slow and dull parts, but the short chapters are easy to read and fly by quickly. I don’t know when I started becoming so invested in the story, but I know it happened long before the amazing rollercoaster ride of the ending. Grace is a smart and likable character, and because the suspense is well-executed, there are some very unique scenes and heart-stopping moments.
Grace’s relationships are at the center of the story. Because Grace is adopted, there are some complex family dynamics. To help her parents learn about the Fairchild mansion, she is forced to befriend popular kids Logan Fairchild and Rachel Mercer, but her desire to form true connections soon gets in the way. The friendship Grace builds with quiet fellow bookworm Selena Rodriguez (who has “the kind of demeanor that suggested she spent a lot of time alone reading books”) is cliched and contrived at first, but gains surprising depth. Rachel, the resident mean girl, is incredibly fun and brings crazy drama and conflict. 
 
For the most part, the players in this wacky web are enjoyable to read about. Parker doesn't do much at first other than brood, and we don’t initially know much about him except that his physical scars match his emotional ones, but he turns out to be kind of an intriguing character. On the downside, the insta-romance between Grace and Logan almost challenges that of Bella and Edward. Because there isn’t much time for development, the poignant scenes  (“I liked the way he looked at me, like there was nothing on his mind but me”) are difficult to believe and even cringeworthy. Though it’s not the best, the relationship does end up being relatively interesting for how incredibly quickly it’s introduced. 
 
Take a rich enigmatic family, a band of criminals with rebellious children and a meddlesome popular girl and toss in the complicated maze of the high school social scene and what do you get? A really fun story! They are thieves after all, and so a lot of character development is required to make us care about them. I thought LIES I TOLD would be a lot more predictable, but I love where Zink took Grace’s personal arc at the end. Be warned that this is definitely not a standalone, though. There are more storylines left hanging in the cliffhanger than in a “Pretty Little Liars” season finale, so be prepared to scream at your book in frustration.
 
You might not be drawn in immediately from the start, but LIES I TOLD is entertaining and at times genuinely moving. Grace may be a liar, but she’s also a teenager whose universally recognizable quest to define herself is complicated by her family’s shifting identities. I recommend LIES I TOLD to anyone who wants to read an action-packed story about authenticity.

Reviewed by Thien-Kim H., Teen Board Member on June 15, 2015

Lies I Told
by Michelle Zink