Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves

Posted September 11, 2014 by Lyn Kaye in book review, Lyn / 5 Comments

Book Review: Lies We Tell OurselvesLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 30th, 2014
Genres: historical, young adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

My exposure to this novel came at BEA when Kat Kennedy sweetly recommended the book at our breakfast table.  When the author came to visit us during the Harlequin breakfast, she did a wonderful job pitching her novel.  Talley mentioned that parts of this book made her “hands shake” during the writing process.  This piqued my interest, to say in the least.

There are books I love to read, books I love to promote, books that I love to admire their covers, and then there are books such as Lies We Tell Ourselves.  I loved this book unconditionally. I loved the wit and the bravery and the realistic view of life during a civil rights movement.


Hit the repeat button. Civil rights movements for black citizens, meet the civil rights movement for GLBT citizens. It never dawned on me until AFTER I read it how the author drew a line between both civil rights movements, 60 years apart, but just as ugly and necessary.  This book blends both battles to show how WRONG and UNJUST the oppression of both groups. Hell, the black movement didn’t end in the 60s. What news stories are featured right now? Ferguson and Atlanta. A black teen shot to death, and a young adult gay man disowned at beaten by his family. The ugliness of people stands out in the story as a blazing monument of hatred and ignorance.

Romance. Gay romance is held to the same standard as hetero romance. The author, thankfully, didn’t make the entire book an excuse to write smut scenes, but instead used the romance as one of the elements of the book.  Insta-love did not come in and wreck the book. It was tasteful and beautiful, and I loved reading about the slow build, and the friction between the character as they dodged around their feelings.

If you’re going to aim high, then at least hit the moon.  I was very concerned when I started this novel, because something this gutsy was going to be difficult to write, and there was plenty of times where the author could have chickened out and opted for the non-confrontational option. But this novel was made of brass tacks. At times, it was downright uncomfortable, but this story needed to be abrasive to be true. The subject matter was not watered down or tampered for the sake of digestible.

I hear voices.  The voices of Linda and Sara were distinct and different, and I loved the personalities of both main characters.  I liked that I could randomly flip to a page, and I knew who was speaking in each chapter.  Technicality win here! The character development of both girls astounded me, and watching the growth evolve made this a book of high standards.

I cry, you cry, we all cry. Get tissues. I’m not even kidding. During a crucial scene in the book, I was honestly sobbing and shivering with the onslaught of anxiety and emotional climax during while I was reading. The use of music in the plot was a wonderful and poignant device to use in the story. I give extra points for using music and other books in a plot.

Earn your stripes. I did not give this book a high rating just on subject matter.  If nothing else, I held Lies We Tell Ourselves to a higher standard. The book not only passed with flying colors, but also went about and beyond in creating a heartwarming and gallant piece of relevant fiction.



Lies We Tell Ourselves isn’t a gimmick book, putting sparkle above substance. The confidence of the story and the integrity of the material makes this story stand out in hot topic literature. The characters and the honest and painful glimpse into a painful part of not only history and current events makes the story a must read for everyone. This book isn’t all smoke and mirrors; it takes a challenging idea, keeps the honor and the honestly intact, and produced a detailed and elaborate tale of bravery and acceptance.

Seriously, read this book.


5 responses to “Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves

  1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this one. I passed on the arc when it was available because I just wasn’t sure it would be for me. I have a hard time with issue books sometimes, but it is good to know that this isn’t gimmicky. I love multiple POVs, also, and it sounds like the author did a good job with that. I’m in a fairly fragile state lately, so I’ll probably wait until summer. Great review!
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