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Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley - Review

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it off Wordery along with the rest of the Carnegie shortlist. I picked it up because my friend Stacey (who was responsible for my buying all the Carnegie shortlist in the first place) was raving about it.

What's it about? It's set in 1959 in Virginia, just after the county has decided that the schools must be integrated. White parents have been fighting it, and black parents have been fighting for it, and eventually ten students are chosen to attend the white school. Sarah and her sister Ruth are two of them. Sarah is a senior, about to graduate from school to attend college. She's had feelings for girls before, but has tried to ignore them.
As soon as the black students arrive, they're subjected to horrible racist abuse and viciously violent attacks. Then Sarah comes up against Linda, whose dad is horribly racist and whose views she's absorbed. The two are put together on a joint project, and argue with one another. Linda's views start to change and eventually the two kiss. 
What age range is it for? 15+ I think. The violence and abuse aren't tempered in any kind of way and are hard to read. Just to read the n-word being slung around so much is difficult. 
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, but it's not framed in those terms. Sarah really struggles with her identity for quite a bit of the novel, She talks about the Bible condemning homosexuality so be aware of that
Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, I mean that is very much the point. 
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? No, just some kissing. 
Are drugs mentioned or used? No
Is there any talk of death? A little, and I will warn again for graphic violence. 
Are there swear words? No, but there are plenty of racial slurs as I said. For me, living in 2016 in Britain, it was hard to read them. I do understand that keeping the novel historically real was needed, though. 
Would I recommend the book? Yes. I didn't love it, but I did like it. Sarah is a really lovely, flawed, human heroine; I loved her. Linda is a good antagonist, too. I loved the ending - it felt really hopeful and sweet. 
How many stars? Six out of ten. 

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