Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley @robin_talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a heart wrenching story about school desegregation in Virginia -- with an added complication.

Heart wrenching is a very accurate description. Nine students will attend the fictitious Jefferson High School after winning a suit filed by the NAACP. Now, we've all seen famous pictures from the 60s when this phenomenon was occurring. But those pictures are from the first day. This book recounts the day after day relentless persecution suffered by these teens. Spit wads, taunts of "nigger," shoving and pushing in and out of school, and many other occurrences were common, everyday experiences. It never got better. There was virtually no support or assistance from the faculty or administration. These kids weren't welcome at extracurricular events. And the prom was cancelled because parents didn't want their white kids at the same dance as blacks which just adds to the hatred.

Sarah is our main character, and she is forced to work on a school project with two white girls, Linda and Judy. They meet in a secret back room where Judy works, so no one knows.  Linda's father is the editor of the newspaper and one of the most vocal supporters of segregation. Linda is also afraid of him -- he's a moody and sometimes violent father.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is told from both Linda's and Sarah's perspectives. Their feelings for each other begin at hatred, and eventually turn into friendship and more. Both are confused about their feelings.

We get to know several characters, and that makes the story become real. There are side stories -- Sarah & Linda both sing. Sarah's sister is also attending Jefferson, and Sarah feels like she must do everything to protect her. Linda is dating a much older guy and plans to get married as soon as she graduates. This is a book about the 1960s in general, as well as desegregation.

There is violence against the teens who attend the white school. Some of them don't survive the environment and end up quitting.

Lies We Tell Ourselves speaks to the reader about strength and perseverance and standing up for what you believe. It strongly addresses how easy it is for teens to believe whatever their parents have taught them and how difficult those beliefs are to change.

I almost felt like the lesbian issue was taking on too much. It was dealt with realistically, but the controversy is already so complicated it was almost overwhelming. Sarah is a devout Christian, and prays fervently for God to help her stop these feelings. This issue does make Lies We Tell Ourselves stand out from the crowd, though.

There's a lot here to discuss. Lies We Tell Ourselves is a difficult book to read, but necessary. We still live with prejudices today -- whether about race or other topics, and this book will do a lot to get the conversation started.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is one of those "everyone needs to read this" books. And then everyone needs to discuss it.

Published by Harlequin Teen, September 30, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
384 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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