Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: September 30th, 2014
Source: Library
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.
I absolutely love this book, and it was one of my favorite reads last year. There's so much that goes on in Lies We Tell Ourselves, but it is so incredibly well written and well paced. I've been finding it hard to find historical fiction books that interest me/pull me in and aren't centered around WWII, but this book definitely broke my unlucky streak. Wow, wow, wow. Much of what I have to say and much of what I loved is tied into the aspects below. I just can't recommend this book enough.

The book contains diversity in so many ways. The most obvious, of course, is racial diversity, though it is more black and white than anything. But it makes sense given the time and place of the novel. The book delves a great deal into integration vs. segregation, and readers truly get a look into both sides through the dual POVs. This is so well done in the book, and it's one of the most effective uses of multiple POVs I've read in a long time. It shows the struggle of both Sarah and Linda, as well as allows us to see the connections between their lives, a connection they themselves don't see at first. And it's an amazing way to see the girls change and see how they react to one another's actions. Of course we're quick to judge and hate on those that supported segregation and refused to allow integration, but Talley shows one perspective from the other side and does so tastefully. It angered me to see how the blacks were being treated at school and in the neighborhood, but I take it as a good sign that I was led to that amount of anger. It means Robin Talley did her job well. I think she explored the complexity of human choice and human emotion, looking at the different motivations people have for the things that they do.

On top of being a really revealing, well-written book about segregation and the fight for integration, the book spent a lot of time focusing on LGBT issues as well. With such well-rounded, three dimentional characters, Talley showed that you can tackle multiple big issues in one book. The exploration of sexuality and the fear the characters face because of their sexual orientation is just as well explored as the aforementioned racial issues. Talley offers a raw look into the lives of the girls, with its myriad issues. Because we are all complex people; we don't just face one problem in life. Life consists of overlapping issues and experiences. The experiences are vastly different, yet there's a strand that ties it together for both. I was really happy to see that Talley was addressing not just one major social issue but two. She did it well, and that just goes to show that it is possible to do that without making it overwhelming-you just think about real people and potentially real situations. You realize it's not so hard to do that.

Lastly, I want to make note of the exploration of family and friendships. There were so many frustrating characters that I just hated (hated their characters, not the way Talley wrote them). They were infuriating, and all I wanted to do was punch them right in their smug faces. And then there were wonderful characters, though more difficult to find. Seeing friendships change and grow, especially as the book progressed and Sarah and Linda changed and grew as character, was really interesting. It felt so real to me, the forbidden nature of their friendship and relationship in generla. The way that people treated the girls, both together and separately. The way the blacks were treated compared to the white people. It was so heartbreaking, yet it was so beautifully written. It was a slow burn, with a slow burning romance that made sense and wasn't rushed. The pacing was perfect, as was the writing.

I can't give this book enough praise. I can't recommend it enough. Please check it out at some point. You won't regret it.

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