Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Telley
Harlequin Teen, 384 pages
US Release Date: September 30, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.
Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.
Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.
Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.
Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.
I don't know how to tell her I just don't have the energy to keep up with my old friends anymore. That my life isn't big enough to deal with all the awful things and still fit in everything that used to be important to me, too.
I don't know what I'm supposed to believe anymore. I want to follow the teachings of the Lord, but I don't know how. It's so complicated. Why would God give me these feelings if they're wrong?
This is probably one of the tougher books I’ve ever had to review, simply because it’s such an important one. I don’t want to really “critique” anything, because the subject matter is so intense and so relevant I don’t want to risk deterring anyone from reading it.
I’m not going to lie, some of this was hard to read. This history is such a hard truth to face, and I’ll admit some of it was hard for me to swallow. But the book does it well, with enough detail to make an impact but not over-the-top for shock value. I’m very glad nothing was horrifically extreme, and am incredibly impressed at the way Telley was able to pull off showing what was real but still reminding the reader there was definitely worse. And not in a guilt-inducing way, but as an element to the story.
One of my concerns was that this story was tackling both racism and sexual orientation—those are two HUGE issues, and can go very wrong, very fast. But I was pleasantly surprised at how seamlessly they blended together and really worked together to make the story. It’s handled well, with equal amount of importance and time given to both. I definitely feel like this was a bold statement that draws on parallels, but…that’s a different conversation.
One of the most interesting parts of this novel was seeing how the parents influenced their kids and the resulting actions and words. It’s definitely a battle of generations, and it was another pleasant surprise to have it portrayed so well. It really added a deeper element of family and nature versus nurture, and was probably one of my favourite parts.
As a story itself, I was fairly impressed with how it all came together. The characters are unique but relatable, and I loved the friendships and family relationships. I don’t think there’s much deviation from a plotline that we could guess, but at the same time, I don’t really think a book like this should. The fight scene towards the end that seemed to be a turning point was perhaps the only thing that really startled me, but it was a good thing in the end.
Lies We Tell Ourselves is such an important book, one to make a reader think and feel and incite action. It’s fairly obvious that I’m a fan of this book, in every way. It’s the perfect way to bring this history and these messages to the YA crowd.