When I was in college, I made the rookie mistake of going out with someone who initially gave me "bad vibes." I ignored those vibes because the guy in question seemed nice enough and I liked his parents and we had a lot of the same interests. Later, I found out that he had never "officially" broken up with his ex-girlfriend, and since she was moving back to the state, he wanted to break things off. I was, of course - he offered, like this garbage human being thought he was doing me a favor - welcome to continue seeing his awesome self until his girlfriend got back. I have never hung up on anyone before. But I hung up on him.
As it turned out, not only had he lied about breaking up with his first "ex"-girlfriend, he had yet another girlfriend on the side - a girl who was in our circle of friends, and who had, towards the end of my relationship with this guy, suddenly started acting very weirdly towards me. I couldn't figure out what it was I had done.
Then I figured it out. And I laughed. Because he had called me and written me, begging me to take him back after his offer to me of being "placeholder" girlfriend didn't pan out. In the email I wrote to him, I called him a garbage human being. When he tried to call the house, I had my dad answer. My dad basically called him a garbage human being, because my dad is awesome, and I guess also since my dad is a man "she doesn't want to see you" meant more coming from him than it did from me. As far as I know, that second girl is still with him, and best of luck to her. #TeamGarbageHumans
You're probably wondering why I bring this up. That's because TELL ME LIES features a very similar cast of garbage human beings. There's Lucy, a naive but inherently vain and selfish girl who is just going off to college. And then there's Stephen, a serial cheater and borderline sociopath who thinks only of himself and how he can manipulate people into doing what he wants. When they meet, Lucy is initially intrigued/put off, but pretty soon he manages to win her over by wearing her down with his own peculiarly effective brand of superficial charm. What follows is a self-destructive cycle of two people who shouldn't be together, and the effect it takes on Lucy is devastating as she begins to develop an eating disorder, develop pretty bad depression, and obsess over this dude who isn't worth her time, and yet she can't help herself, and keeps coming back to him again and again.
One thing I liked is that the author doesn't take the easy route and make Stephen a good-looking person. It's mentioned several times that he's overweight and while he isn't ugly, he's not a model-looking guy, either. In a lot of new adult fiction I've read, the womanizers are godly, attractive specimens of men and it's basically taken for granted that they'd cheat, because how could they possibly resist temptation? Lucy finds Stephen attractive because of his confidence (something she lacks) and the flattery (she lacks the attention she craves at home with a mother she sees as competition and a younger sister that she's insanely jealous of). With all of her baggage, Stephen makes her feel good about herself - until he doesn't, but by then, she's already grown too dependent.
I saw a lot of people rating this low because they hated the people and I get that. If you aren't interested in reading about garbage human beings, this is not the book to you. It has as much drama as a Lifetime movie, and the way that Lucy and the other girls talk about each other is pretty gross. Nasty New Yorkers seems to be the new trend in women's lit this year, as I've seen it displayed not just in TELL ME LIES, but also SOCIAL CREATURE and SOCIABLE. I went in with pretty low expectations but actually ended up enjoying it just as much as I did BIG LITTLE LIES. No, the characters aren't likable but they're realistic and interesting, and very entertaining to watch.
I'm kind of shocked at how many people were shelving this book as a "romance," though. I would say this is women's fiction and not romance. Romances usually have happy endings, and even if they don't have happy endings, they usually have a mutual attraction/bond between the pairings, whereas it's made pretty clear that Stephen is not only incapable of reciprocating the feelings that the numerous girls he strings along in this book expect from him, but he gets annoyed when they try to force the issue, too. He doesn't want to change or be the redeemed rake. He just wants easy you-know-what. If you take this as a cautionary story, or as a train wreck drama, I think you might enjoy this book. Just keep in mind that all the characters are trash, and if you ever dated an emotionally manipulative dude who drew the short end of the ethical stick, you might find yourself meditating on past relationships best left out on the proverbial curb where they belong.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
4 out of 5 stars