Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

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I received this book for free from Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin TalleyLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 30th 2014
Genres: Historical, YA
Source: Harlequin Teen
Buy on Amazon

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.

There are some books you read for pure entertainment, and others, like Lies We Tell Ourselves, end up being much more than that. This novel tells an important story tied to our own history. One not too far in the past. One that is still a factor in our present, just with an altered face. It’s hard to read at times, but it’s also full of hope, strength and courage.

Not only is this an eye opening story, but it’s one narrated with the help of two wildly compelling teenage voices. The year is 1959, and Sarah is one of the first black students to attend a school that used to be all-white. This integration is not wanted by any of these white kids nor their parents, so you can only imagine the violent battle that Sarah is about to step into. From the beginning, you know that this is not going to be an easy, lighthearted read. You fall into Sarah’s shoes from the very start. You endure the taunts, the insults, the shouts, the abuse, the fear, all along with her. I was in a constant state of horror and shock from what these kids were doing to her. Yet, I was never doubting this had actually happened in real life – which made it all the more disgusting. It’s a hard truth from our past to swallow, even sadder knowing racism is still alive and rampant today. It might not have improved at all had it not been for people like Sarah, however. This has to be the most difficult time in her life, yet she remains impressively strong and determined to be part of a change for the future. I loved this about her. Of course, she has moments of weakness and despair – she’s only human – but how she bounces back from these is what makes her admirable.

On the other side of the coin we’ve got Linda’s perspective. A popular white girl who’s powerful father is the voice of segregation. Even though she hates her father, she adopts his values and beliefs so that he doesn’t see her true self. We see it, though. Soon enough, we start seeing the doubts and cracks in this persona of hers. While she’s not very likeable at the start, I never blamed her. I blamed the society that conditioned her beliefs. she grows immensely as a character and as a person, and I came to admire her courage in the face of all this hate. The secondary characters are also very three dimensional and range from the bullies, the skeptics, to tons of family members. I loved Ruth and Judy the most. The former being Sarah’s sister who shows great amounts of bravery herself. The latter being Linda’s friend who know what it’s like to live with a mark. Lucky for her, hers can be hidden, but it makes her understand what it’s like to be different, to have to hide and be ashamed of who you really are (which relates to the LGBT topic).

Aside from racism, there’s also the topic of LGBT, which is not all that different in terms of societal acceptance in those days – and while we’ve made progress, is still not as accepted as it should be today. The plot is fairly predictable in itself. Even though it’s not the kind of book where one should expect plot twists and shocking developments, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more surprise. Something that would have really made this already fierce novel into an emotional force, something wholly poignant. I’m not saying it wasn’t these things, it just wasn’t to the degree that it could have been.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a highly character driven novel, and one that I wish everyone – young and old – would read and pass along. It’s powerful and eye opening, and after all the hatred and dread, it ends with a positive message that we can all use in life. A must read – no doubt about it!


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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9 Responses to “Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley”

  1. Soma Rostam

    I am so happy that you liked this book. I have been hearing about it everywhere. It sounds like such an eye-opening read, definitely adding it to my TBR
    GReat review!
    Your reader,
    soma R.

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    This sounds beautiful, Giselle. Racism in books is such a hard thing to swallow and I can only imagine the shock that you went through when you read this book. I think this is something I need to read because the author seems to have tackled the themes very well. Sara sounds like a fabulous character. I don’t even know how she was able to go through all that with a brave face! I already admire her from reading your review.
    Great review, Giselle! 🙂

    .S You need to try Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley. I think you would like it very much. It tackles sexism in a military environment.

  3. Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    One of the things that I enjoy the most about YA is that many of the books in this genre have ‘messages’ and/or tackle sensitive topics, you just not see that as often in UF or PNR. From your review, it sounds like Robin Talley was certainly up to that task on top of delivering a good story to boot. I’m relieved to learn that it ends on a high note though because you just never know with Historicals.

  4. Pili

    I was so horrified when I was reading the first chapters from Sarah’s POV! I was feeling scared and anxious along with her!
    This is a fantastic book and one that really needs to be read by everyone given how it puts you right in the place of someone suffering from such horrible discrimination and abuse and makes you walk in their shoes!
    Great review, Giselle!