In the same vein as Gayle Forman's I Was Here comes a novel from the gifted author of Faking Normal, Courtney C. Stevens, about hope and courage and the struggle to overcome the pain of loss. Sadie Kingston is living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can't move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent's brother, Max. As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she's unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him. But Max looks at her scars and doesn't shy away. And Max knows about the list she writes in the sand at the beach every night, the list of things that Sadie knows she must accomplish before she can move on from the accident. And while he can help her with number six (kiss someone without flinching), she knows she's on her own with number three (forgive Gina and Gray) and the rest of the seemingly impossible tasks that must be made possible before she can live in the now again.
The Lies About TruthFeatured
Let me start by saying that it's pretty rare for me to give a book a five star rating. It's even more rare for me to give two books by the same author five stars. Therefore, it's pretty astonishing to find myself saying that I rank THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH by Courtney Stevens as one of the top five contemporary YA books I've ever read--with her first book, FAKING NORMAL, being another of those 5.
As in the first book by Stevens, THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH is about teens who are broken by some of life's greatest challenges. Stevens's characters confront a dark and heavy issue with strength and wisdom. That said, they aren't freakishly strong nor unnaturally wise. They're just teenagers who are making mistakes and then trying to undo those mistakes as best they can. As I read, I embraced their weaknesses as much as their strength.
Stevens has some beautiful sentences enmeshed in the difficult subject matter and she shows amazing talent for writing. She also proves to be an apt teacher because THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH gives the reader lessons on grieving, loving, friendship, and forgiveness--and she does so without relying on stereotypes and formulas. For that, I am incredibly grateful.
With this book, Courtney Stevens has taken a place on my short list of authors whose books I will buy the instant they hit the shelves.
Life lessons without preaching
The story takes place in contemporary Florida, nearly a year after five close friends are both the witnesses and unwitting participants to a catastrophic car accident that claimed one of their lives. The account is told entirely through the first-person point of view of 17-year-old Sadie Kingston, who was left disfiguringly scarred in the same incident that killed one of her best friends. Despite a year of corrective surgeries and therapy sessions Sadie’s psyche is stuck in a self-imposed exile, steeped in loss and blame and things left unsaid between those she once loved.
Leisurely paced and thoughtfully written, this intensely relational telling has a sort of teen soap-opera feel to it. It gently weaves together so many minute, seemingly innocuous decisions and their unforeseeable consequences. This book takes a hard look at grieving, in both its effective an ineffective forms—examines the intimacy that often comes from shared secrets and communal trauma. It also serves as a sort of quiet caution against the corrosive tactic of avoidance in conflict resolution
“No one talked about the questions, because talking ruined plausible deniability. Talking burst the bubble of innocence. Talking ended the happily ever after.
These were the truths they believed.
And they were lies.
They should have talked while there was still something to say.”
What I liked:
This book contains an exceptional number of meaningful and memorable quotes. Stevens is a wiz at stretching out her voice and pulling you in with attentive, impactful wording.
*"I fell, and it didn't kill me. So I decided that if I was going to fall, I might as well fall moving up."
*"Above me is a sky full of stars. In front of me is an ocean full of waves. Beneath me are a million grains of sand that used to be rock. That ocean I love so much beat rocks into sand. I'm afraid that's what I've done to you."
I LOVED the salvage yard scenes. The unique relationship Sadie formed with the yard’s endearingly cantankerous owner was one of the most profound and believable parts of the book, in this reader’s opinion. A close second was Sadie’s devoted and remarkably healthy relationship with her parents—a dynamic that’s almost a novelty in the young adult genre.
The author beautifully captures the essence of growing up with the beach as your stomping ground. The amount of detail put into the scenery and ocean-based activities was hugely enriching to the overall feel, and leant itself well to the overall authenticity.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
While I loved the idea of sprinkling in a number of Sadie’s emails to Max over the course of the year to demonstrate how their pen-pal-ish relationship grew, it was disappointing to not be allowed a look at any of Max’s written correspondence. A few pertinent things could be derived from the one-sided conversations readers are privy to, but it sat more like a lost opportunity to get to know Max.
On a related note, the romantic angle seemed a bit detached. Readers may have some trouble buying Max and Sadie’s chemistry once they do come together.
This reader was strongly impacted by the author’s debut book, Faking Normal, but was somewhat relieved to see her second work take on a slightly lighter tone. The telling carries along well enough for the first 30%, propelled by the visceral degree of Sadie’s social struggles and physical/emotional scarring—along with the anticipation of her finally seeing Max again in person after a year of forming deep and romantic interest via email. From there though, the momentum did some dragging.
The ‘big reveal’ comes in the form of two vaguely related secrets that certain members of the group have been keeping from each other—mainly, because they didn’t feel they were their secrets to share. But the seriousness of these two bits of information ultimately felt underwhelming; bordering on melodramatic. And the tension wasn’t much enhanced by finally learning which of Sadie’s friends had been sending her anonymous letters containing her own stolen diary-like quotes. In that way, this quote sums up the conflict succinctly: “Sometimes a small thing is bigger than a big thing.”
A solid pick for readers interested in stories about loss, forgiveness, emotional healing, tight-knit friendship groups, and the impermanent tenuousness of teenage romance.
I have been so excited for this book ever since I finished Faking Normal by the same author. I had loved the characters, the growth, and the way sensitive subjects were handled. I had high hopes that this book would, at least, be equal to it. And thankfully, I was not disappointed.
There were so many reasons I could list as to why I loved this book. Sadie was an amazing character who was hurting, she was grieving, and she was pushing everyone away except the one person who was safe to talk to because he was in a different country. All she saw was her scars when she looked at herself so all she noticed about other people were their reactions to her scars. It made it easy for her to decide to push them away or to not fully listen to what they were saying – even when they only wanted the best for her. She wasn’t going to be able to move on and accept things until she was ready and the struggle to do that, both for her and the people around her, was so well portrayed. It was slow and painful and a lot of two steps forward, one step back.
Max was a great love interest. He was hurting too and the bond that developed between him and Sadie started off by just exchanging e-mails and being able to talk to the one person they each thought would get it. It slowly turned into something more over the course of the year until Max returned. They were taking steps forward together, whether it was talking about Trent or going out in public. Max was sweet and he quickly became one of my favourite book boys.
The book dealt with a lot more than just the physical changes to Sadie and the grief over Trent’s death. Both Sadie and Max, and even their friends Gray and Gina who were in a different car but present for the accident, suffered from survivor’s guilt. The tight friendship between them completely changed. It dealt with acceptance and forgiveness and healing.
I thought the use of flashbacks and the e-mail exchanges between Sadie and Max were really well used. The flashbacks allowed the reader to see the friendship between Sadie and Trent, and to get to know Trent as a character. It also showed the bond between them all. The e-mails, though we only got to see Sadie’s side of the exchange, showed the developing feeling between Sadie and Max and was the only time Sadie felt uninhibited. She could tell Max anything.
Overall, I wouldn’t place this book above Faking Normal but the two books are on the same level for me. They dealt with such different issues and the characters were so different but the themes of friendship and healing were so important to the story.