Title: Seven Ways We Lie
Author: Riley Redgate
Genre: YA Contemporary
Received for review from Audible
Summary (from Goodreads)
Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—whether it’s Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage; or Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.
When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.
When I saw that this had seven point of view characters, I was a little dubious. Seven? And it’s an average length YA book, not a massive epic fantasy. Any concerns were quickly assuaged, though, as within the first couple of hours of the audiobook, it was clear that each of the characters was well defined, with a unique voice, and even without the multiple narrators there wouldn’t have been any chance of confusing them.
What Seven Ways We Lie is, is being sixteen/seventeen in a nutshell. I’m British, so I didn’t go to an American high school, but clearly the experiences are very similar, because I recognised so many things from my own life in the trials and tribulations of the characters. The story explores that difficult, transitory period where you are sort of an adult, but also sort of still a kid (as much as any sixteen/seventeen year old would not like to be labeled as such). The ‘romance with a teacher’ plot line epitomises this struggle, and while the story line sounds like it’s going to be sensationalised and preachy – by the emotive nature of the issue – it’s actually handled in a sensitive, morally grey way that further demonstrates what a minefield growing up can be, without lambasting any character in particular.
The character Olivia also provides the opportunity to explore some feminist ideas about female sex and sexuality. At times, I think Olivia came across as a little too mature for a girl her age, but on the other hand, she’d been a mother figure within her family for several years, so it’s not unbelievable that she has a very adult outlook. And as a voice of reason against slut-shaming and misogynistic ideals held by a lot of teenage boys, and perpetuated by society, she’s an important character for young girls. Again, the issues aren’t presented in a way that’s strongly leaning towards one view or another – it’s not a call for promiscuity or abstinence, rather a presentation that either is a valid choice as long as you are making that choice and are happy with it.
In fact, I think that’s my favourite thing about this book – the non-judgemental exploration of teenage lives. Being teenaged is difficult enough, without being told you’re doing it wrong all the time. Even with a character who smokes a lot of weed – something I personally disagree with, though each to their own – I found myself sympathising with his choices, even as I was thinking that, by my moral compass, they weren’t the right choice.
Seven Ways We Lie perfectly encapsulates what it is to be almost grown up. From sexuality, to self esteem and body image, it presents teenage issues in a non-judgemental way, instead exploring what impact they have on characters that are so realistic, you’ll feel like you’ve met them before. Excellent narration from all cast members just made this an even more enjoyable experience. Perfect.