By Cynthia Ayala
“Gabe and Elyse have never met. But they both have something to hide. Quiet, shy Elyse can’t believe it when she’s cast as the lead in her Portland high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. But when someone at rehearsals starts to catch her eye–someone she knows she absolutely shouldn’t be with–she can’t help but be pulled into the spotlight. Austin native Gabe is contemplating the unthinkable–breaking up with Sasha, his headstrong, popular girlfriend. She’s not going to let him slip through her fingers, though, and when rumors start to circulate around school, he knows she has the power to change his life forever. Gabe and Elyse both make the mistake of falling for the wrong person. Told in parallel narratives, this twisty, shocking story shows how one bad choice can lead to a spiral of unforeseen consequences that not everyone will survive.” —Goodreads
Published May 29, 2018, by Razorbill Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson is a perceptive debut novel that shifts between two perspectives, miles apart and unknown to each other as they both deal with their insecurities and toxic relationships.
Incredible and masterful. Some novels stay with the reader and have such an impact on them with their excellent writing. Lies You Never Told Me is one of those novels. The most significant challenge this novel has is the fact that it is writing two stories here. There are two stories about two different characters with two different set of problems and lives in two very different places in the United States. These characters have nothing to do with one another, and yet they both fit together so perfectly. That is due to the tone of the novel. There is an overarching tone of the novel, a premise about toxic relationships, that covers both perspectives of the novel, bridging both together into one unifying story, even while both exist as separate entities.
Moreover, it is incredible how the story functions because both characters are so different and come from very different types of lies. Gabe has no worry in the world; he has a happy home and a happy family whereas Elyse comes from a broken home with a parent who has just checked out. Their lives are so different, and yet, despite that, the reader is not distracted or pulled out of the story. It is clear that Donaldson put her heart into structuring this novel so that it flowed, moving between characters and telling each story to it’s fullest, developing the characters impeccably. Each persona is fully developed and grown out excellently, blossoming at the end and becoming better through everything they have learned and endured.
However, the undeniably captivating part of this novel is how it broaches the subject of “toxic relationships.” They are not cut and dry and can look like any relationship. Gabe is in a relationship with a cheerleader and Elyse, well hers is much different, but both are dangerous. Both relationships function differently and in different ways. Moreover, it is essential for young readers, or any reader, to be able to identify what forms a toxic relationship, how does it become toxic. It is not always about controlling the other person; it is about manipulating the other person, about putting the person in precarious situations, about putting oneself first, and more. This novel explores all of those details and more. It’s essential for the reader to connect with the characters in this aspect because everyone should be in healthy, happy, and safe relationships, and to be able to identify the dangers of a bad one is paramount, to connect with the character and see the danger they don’t, that is what makes an impact. That is what makes the novel gripping and thought-provoking.
The novel is amazing. While some of the characters are unlikable, and even some may make the reader gasp, there’s a connection between the reader and the story. It is a gripping novel that shifts between perspective beautifully without losing sight of the big picture and without losing sight of the story. (★★★★☆ | A)