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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr - Review

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Where did I get it? Netgalley, thank you to Penguin for the opportunity to read it!

What's it about? Ella Black is seventeen, and lives in Kent with her over protective parents. She is doing okay at school, although she has few friends. She has a hidden side - a side of herself that she calls Bella, for Bad Ella, a side that encourages her to get angry and lash out. She fights with herself daily to control Bella.

Then one day she's at school and in trying to protect her friend she gets into trouble. She's called to the headmistress' office and her mum is there, so she thinks she's in real trouble. But her mum tells her they've got to leave straight away, and before Ella knows it she's at Heathrow airport, headed with her parents to Rio.

They lie to her and tell her it's about her dad's work, but once in Rio it becomes clear that they're not telling her the truth. Still, Ella is trying to make the best of it in Rio, a place she's always wanted to visit, and she meets Christian. She sneaks out one night to meet him and then the next day breaks into the safe in her hotel room in order to get her phone back. There she finds a letter that proves she's not who she thinks she is. Ella Black is adopted, and her birth mother will be looking for her. 

Ella takes off, angry with her adoptive parents, and into the back streets of Rio. Things keep happening and keep happening, which is par for the course in Emily Barr novels, and although at about the 20% point I wasn't sure if I liked the book, I found I couldn't put it down and I read it in a couple of days. I did like it by the end. Often, with YA novels especially, I think about how I would have written the same book, and with this I just know I couldn't write a book like this. The energy within it and everything that happens is so different to my own style, but that's not to its detriment at all, it's just how I like to look at books. 

Ella isn't altogether a likeable character, I found, but I still wanted her to succeed and was behind her all the way, and I thought Emily did an excellent job of portraying a difficult character. I'm sad it took me so long to read this, to be honest, even though all of Book Twitter kept saying how great it was!

What age range is it for? 16+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? There's a few people of colour around, and I thought Emily did a great job of getting across the racial mix of Rio 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I'm going to say yes, since Ella has the stuff with Bella going on inside her. 

Is there any sex stuff? No

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, some of it is quite explicit 

Are there swear words? Yes 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none. I did have to suspend belief a couple of times, but I always feel like that about Emily's books (whether Young Adult or her adult novels, of which I've read several), They gallop through the story and make you suspend belief and just go with it for the sake of a good book, and I like that. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Honestly, I'd earmarked it to read on holiday but never got round to it, so it was at the front of my Kindle carousel. 

What other books is it like? Emily's other books definitely. I like that she always has exotic locations and believable female characters. Look at my tag for more by her!

How many stars? Four out of five

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