Secrets, Betrayal, and “The Lies They Tell”

Book Title: The Lies They Tell
Author: Gillian French
Series: None
Genres: YA, Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pub Date: 5/1/18

Everyone in Tenney’s Harbor, Maine, has heard of the Garrison tragedy. A mysterious fire. A family of five reduced to one. For people like Pearl Haskins—whose dad was the caretaker of the Garrison property when the house went up in flames—the whispers about that night are more than upsetting. They hurt. With her disgraced father now trying to find steady work in between booze benders, Pearl is stuck waiting tables at the town’s country club where the rich townspeople come in the summer to flaunt their money and gossip about one another.

This year, a group of privileged boys has made a point of sitting in Pearl’s section—throwing careless insults her way while also attempting to flirt. Though she’s repulsed by everything they stand for, she’s drawn to the quiet leader of the pack, Tristan—the last surviving Garrison. He wasn’t home the night a blaze took his entire family, and the sadness coming off him in waves is hard to ignore. Befriending the summer boys might irk her to her core, but inside their fold of elite parties and reckless whims could be answers to what happened the night of the fire. And that’s just what she finds.

Hidden beneath the glittering façade of wealth and luxury, Pearl discovers a dark and twisted web of lies and betrayals that, once untangled, will leave no life in Tenney’s Harbor unchanged. That is…if it doesn’t take Pearl’s first.

It seemed everyone felt fascination-meets-revulsion in Tristan Garrison’s presence, followed by but the police cleared him; they let him go, didn’t they? Somehow, it wasn’t a comfort. Not at all.

Over the past year I’ve become an avid fan of Gillian French; her writing is so character driven and atmospheric that it takes little to no effort in being transported to the setting of each of her novels. When I first saw the cover reveal for The Lies They Tell, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy and I’m so glad I did! This story was a seamless blend of mystery, suspense, and intrigue while also maintaining a traditional “YA Contemporary” feel, which is no easy feat. If you enjoy a plot that deals with dark, heavy content while sustaining a lighter, summer read feel, this may be the book for you.

As stated above, this is a character driven novel that centers around the past and present; the reader is guided along a thrilling path where both sides of the story are open-ended. Who really torched the Garrison estate? Why did Tristan survive? Will Pearl clear her father’s name and reinstate his good reputation? How much danger is she really in? As the reader we find the answer to all these questions and more, and while I’ve heard that some people had this one solved from the beginning and others were 100% shocked by the ending, I think I was blissfully somewhere in between. The answer to the whodunnit did cross my mind a few times, but I still felt that I grappled with other solutions and genuinely felt the stun at the big reveal regardless of my prior thoughts.

I can’t really say more about the plot for fear of spoilers, but if we’re being honest my favorite things to talk about here are the characters and atmosphere. I have always dreamed of traveling seaside in Maine, and each time the urge hits me I grab one of two authors-Stephen King and Gillian French. While their writing style and content are on opposite ends of the spectrum, I find they both deliver the setting immaculately in their novels and fill a void in my reading soul that I didn’t even know existed before. The writing is lush and descriptive in a natural way; instead of telling you what a summer in Tenney’s Harbor is like, she says “Here, let me show you.” The characters fit right into this style of writing as well; emotion is conveyed effectively and I felt those moments with Pearl as she experienced innocent, young love with Reese, turmoil over her father’s situation, and terror as she realizes who murdered Tristan’s entire family.

The sign of excellent YA fiction is when it can reach beyond the scope of teenagers and lure in readers of all ages, and the author has given us such an excellent example of this with The Lies They Tell. While a good bit of the middle portion is a slow burn, I believe the patient, character intrigued reader will really take to this growing build up and find themselves gripped from beginning to end. Highly recommended for those looking for a book that’s not too dark but not too light over the summer.

*Many thanks to the author and publisher for providing me an advance review copy. Mood board images acquired via We Heart It .

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