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Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Wednesday, September 1, 2021


Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the tour for Lies Like Wildfire! It is my pleasure to welcome you. If you've never been here before, please do have a click around because I review a lot of YA books so I'm sure you'll find something to whet your appetite!


Before I start I need to give trigger warnings on this book for: fire, climate change, death, suicidal ideation, pet death, a few other things. You may find this a difficult book to read. Take care!

Where did I get it? I'm on the blog tour! Thank you so much to Penguin for having me on this tour. I was provided with an electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 


What's it about? It's the final summer before college for the "monsters", a group of friends who have been friends since they were like eight years old and in a drama summer camp together. The five of them want to have a fun-filled summer before three of them go off to college and two of them get jobs. 

There's Hannah, daughter of the Sheriff of the town they live in, Gap Mountain. When she was six, her mother caused a fatal accident because she was drunk, and the Sheriff had to arrest her and she was imprisoned. She later died, leaving Hannah without her mum and with the knowledge that the Sheriff will put his job and the law before members of his family. Hannah didn't get into Stanford so is heading off elsewhere to do Criminal Justice. Hannah has three horses and a beloved dog, Matilda. 

Her best friends are as follows: 

Drummer, who Hannah has been in love with for years. But "monsters don't date monsters", and besides, she doesn't think he likes her that way. Drummer does keep her on a hook, though, and keeps her around because she's useful for getting him out of scrapes. He is going to work full time in autumn. 

Mo is also heading to college. She's a sensible person, I liked Mo a lot. There's Luke, who is on probation for some petty vandalism the previous year. He lives with his mum and brother, but his mum is a drug user and his relationship with her is fractious. Luke is also going to work full time in the fall, and is fiercely protective of his younger brother. 

Then there's Violet. Violet doesn't live in Gap Mountain, but lives down in Santa Barbara. She spends all her summers in Gap Mountain with her grandmother, Lulu. Violet is beautiful and clever and is heading to Stanford University. She's basically perfect, of course. 

So, the five of them go up to Gap Lake one July afternoon. The lake barely has a beach and is something like two thousand feet deep as it's literally a gorge between two mountains. The five meet up - Hannah and Violet go on Hannah's horses, the others drive up. Mo brings snacks and beer, and Luke brings some weed. 

He has a pack of matches and Hannah tells him off for bringing a naked flame into a wildfire area. He lights the match and she knocks it out of his arm, and a fire starts. The five try to put it out, but it quickly rages out of control. They try to destroy any trace of them being there because starting a fire, even accidentally, is a crime. Hannah and Violet head back to town on the horses and run into Hannah's dad. He asks them if they saw anything and Violet says no, telling the first lie about the incident. 

The fire rages. Everyone has to evacuate Gap Mountain and head for the next town, Bishop. Hannah hitches a ride with a man called Justin. Violet abandons her, heading for Bishop too. When Hannah finally gets there, she discovers that Luke and Mo have both lost their homes. She also discovers that Violet and Drummer are dating. 

The fire takes nearly a month to be contained, and ten people die in it. The five obviously feel horribly guilty, but once they've started to lie they find they can't really stop lying. Plus Luke's fingerprints are on record, because of his prior crime, so everyone knows that if anything is found that ties him to the crime, he'll go down for it. And then there's the photo Mo posted of her and Drummer up at the lake... 

But monsters don't rat on monsters, right? But then one of the five goes missing, and all bets are off... 

I liked the story a lot, lots of things happen and everything just spins out of control. There's no malice in the fire, it was an accident, but it rages out of control and so do the lies. I felt for all the main characters and understood why they felt they couldn't tell the truth. I loved the setting of the town and the people who lived in it. 


What age range is it for? Sixteen and above, it's pretty dark in places. 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 


Are any main characters people of colour? No I don't think so, I don't know if that's unusual for the area of California or not? 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? In a way no, but also something happens to Hannah that leaves her pretty traumatised so yes kind of in the second half of the book. 


Is there any sex stuff? Yes, and it's a little graphic, and also it's not entirely consensual - Hannah is quite upset afterwards


Are drugs mentioned or used? Mentioned, yes, but the only use is Luke's weed at the beginning 


Is there any talk of death? Yes, and injury. It's somewhat graphic. 


Are there swear words? I don't think so. 

 

What criticisms do I have? My only criticism really is that I wish we had seen more of Luke as a person. I understood why the other three were important to Hannah, but I didn't get as much of that with Luke. He just seemed angry and I didn't warm to him. 


Would I recommend the book? Yes, a hundred percent. I'll look out for something else by the same author too
 

What do I think of the cover? It's cool, I like the flames. 

 

What other books is it like? It's been compared to One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus, which I think is a fair comparison to things spiralling out of control. I also thought the disaster element reminded me of Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, which is also set in California. 


How many stars? Four out of five. 


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