Over Hyped But Still Enjoyable: Lives We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

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.

Source: GoodReads

I liked Lies We Tell Ourselves, but it just didn’t quite live up to the hype I had for it.

Then again, it had a lot of hype going for it.  So, I guess it was bound to be sort of a disappointment.

Let’s talk about the good first, because there’s a lot of good with this book.

I loved how Talley structured the novel.  The shifts in point of views throughout the story, really added extra dimension to the story.  If the novel would’ve been written in first person from either perspective, I think it would’ve lost some of its oompth.  I even like how the epilogue was written from a minor character’s perspective which was something I initially didn’t think I’d like.

I also like that this book is a historical.  Historicals are one genre I wish would grow more in the market.  Lies We Tell Ourselves take place during the Civil Rights era.  That era is one of the most important in American History.  With recent events, I even think reading a book about that time period is even more relevant in today’s society. Add a subplot that deals with LBGT issues and this book really is one hot topic printed in a book.

For the most part, I thought Talley handled the period with grace.  The book is hard to read in part because it uses such coarse language, but that language is needed to really get the feel for the period.  Additionally, the feelings towards LBGTs fitted the time period as well.  I felt like while these issues took place in 1959, they were still relevant to today and I could see a lot of teens experiencing the same feelings that Sarah and Linda felt.

That aside, I did have issues with Sarah and Linda as a couple.

I think it might’ve been because I really did not care for Linda for about ninety percent of the story.  I get that she changes but man…yeah, not that impressed with her.  And I really didn’t feel her attraction to Sarah or vice versa, because she was such a horrible person and talked about Sarah with such vulgarity for about ninety percent of her story.  I think the best way to describe her is that she’s the asshole out of the two.

I think you see it pretty much in every YA relationship that one person in said relationship has to be the asshole and Linda is this book’s resident asshole.  There’s a lot of stuff that she does that I can’t give her a pass on.  I don’t care how much she’s repented-actions speak louder than words, girl- and I don’t buy her I’m an abused sob story. Plus, the fact that she cheats on her sort of fiancé makes the whole thing even worse.

And I wanted to shake Sarah for liking her.  Really, the only thing she likes about Linda is that she’s pretty and they get all hot and bothered when they debated.  It’s sort of annoying to be honest.  I liked the fact that Talley made Sarah question her sexuality.  I think that whole plot/character development is one that a lot of LBGT teens will be able to relate to.  I just didn’t like the fact out of all the girls in the novel it had to be Linda.

I think in the end I liked this one, not because of the romance but because of the subject matter it was discussing.  I really could see this novel as something being read in an English class.  I think it should be read.  It’s a meaty discussion filled book.  But the romance plot, really didn’t work for me.  While I liked the discussions about LGBTs especially in the South in the 1950’s, insta love and assholes ruined the actual relationship for me.

Still, an overall yay though.  Sensitive issues, historicals, and diversity, are three things that need to be in YA more.

Overall Rating: A solid B borderline B+.


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