Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
|Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
|Reviewer: Robert James
|Summary: Thought-provoking, important and brilliantly written, this is one of the best of the year so far.
|Date: October 2014
|Publisher: MIRA Ink
|External links: Author's website
Shortlisted for the 2016 CILIP Carnegie Medal
The year is 1959, and a small group of black students are attending Jefferson High, a previously all-white school. Barely anyone is happy that Sarah Dunbar and her friends are going to Jefferson, and the group face a terrifying ordeal as they're surrounded by people who want to see them fail. Chief amongst them is Linda Hairston, daughter of one of the town's most vocal segregationalists. But when Sarah and Linda start working together on a school project, they start to realise they may have more in common than they think - and friendship might not be all they're looking for from each other.
This has taken me about three months to write, not because I didn't know what to say - I'm not short of feelings about this breathtaking read - but because I was trying to work out how comfortable I was with admitting to a lack of thought.
Because, on the one hand, as someone who would have considered myself to have at least a reasonable amount of familiarity with the civil rights movement, I knew all about the struggles to put an end to segregated schools, and I was aware of the violence that occurred before the decision was made. And yet, somehow, it never really struck me just how much of a legacy of hatred that must have left for the first black children to go to traditionally white schools. This seems both ridiculous of me and appalling, but I was stunned by the level of ferocity shown to Sarah and her friends as they attended school, and just how little most of the staff did to stop this. Because of this, I found it a hugely, nearly unbearably powerful read - and on the strength of this aspect alone it's an easy recommendation to all.
Making it even better, though, is the central relationship between Sarah and Linda, whose growing attraction to each other is forbidden on two levels, partly because of their different races and partly because they’re the same sex. The pair of them coming to terms with their feelings for each other is brilliantly handled and they both develop well as characters over the course of the book - particularly Linda, who's hard to warm to at first given her ingrained racist views but whose change over the course of the book is both heartwarming and completely believable. There's great chemistry between them, as well. Both of the leads are excellent narrators with really strong voices, but there's also a rich supporting cast of characters - especially Sarah's little sister Ruth, and Linda's friend Judy.
With great characterisation, tough issues covered, and a plot which had me guessing right up until the last pages, leading to one of my favourite endings of the year so far, this is a must-read. Massively recommended!
You can read more book reviews or buy Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley at Amazon.com.
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley is in the Top Ten Teen Books of 2014.
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