Saturday, September 10, 2022

The Lies They Tell by Gillian French


There's a certain kind of book my friend Heather and I LOVE and that is the FULT™ (Fucked Up Lady Thriller™). Given our mutual love of FULTs, I was delighted that she agreed to buddy-read this book. YA FULTs™ can be a bit hit or miss, and at first I was a little unsure about how I was going to feel about THE LIES THEY TELL, which kind of seemed like it was going to be a WE WERE LIARS dupe.

The plot is this: in a rich Maine seaside down where the lines are drawn between Summer People™ and Townies™, Pearl works slaving away as a waitress in a clubhouse, feeding the uber-rich with her friend and crush, Reese. She and her dad are pariahs because the house of one of the rich families, the Garrisons, recently burned down WITH ALL OF THEM STILL INSIDE, and her dad was the watchman on duty that night. It's a toss-up for public opinion whether Pearl's dad or the eldest and sole-surviving Garrison boy were the people who started the blaze-- or even if it were someone else entirely-- but Pearl intends to find out.

One of the Summer People™ flirts with her at lunch one day and she ends up getting sucked into the circle of privilege for Tristan, Bridges, and Akil. To sate their boredom, they constantly lash out at each other or their willing- and not-so-willing victims, when they're not partying like it's 1999 or drowning their Rich Boy Sorrows™ in the bottom of a bottle. The closer Pearl gets to them, the more conflicted her feelings become, especially as the differences in station between her and them become more and more glaringly apparent.

So I liked this book, but as other people have said, Pearl doesn't really have much of a personality. She doesn't do anything and she doesn't emote and outside of her job, she doesn't have hobbies. The moments she felt most real to me as a character were when she was emoting as a normal teen girl should. I didn't mind her grumpiness but I suspect it's a huge reason why this book has such low ratings, when readers often demand cheery and upbeat perfection from their heroines. I also would have liked more romance and maybe a bit more viciousness. Some elements of the story felt a little half-baked, even though I thought the author did a good job broaching subjects like classism and institutional sexism, and balancing sensual but age-appropriate passages with daunting suspense.

I'd read more from this author in a heartbeat but I also kind of wish the characters had been older. This feels like a story that would have worked so much better if it were smuttier and darker.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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