THE LIES WE TELL, by Katie Zhao, Bloomsbury YA, Nov. 15, 2022, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult, ages 14 and up)
A college freshman finds herself at the middle of a deadly mystery in Katie Zhao’s new YA thriller The Lies We Tell.
Anna Xu moves out of her parent’s home and into the dorms across town as she starts freshman year at the local, prestigious Brookings University. But her parents and their struggling Chinese bakery, Sweetea, aren’t far from campus or from mind, either.
At Brookings, Anna wants to keep up her stellar academic performance and to investigate the unsolved campus murder of her childhood babysitter. She also finds a familiar face — her middle-school rival, Chris Lu. The Lus happen to be the Xu family’s business rivals since they opened Sunny’s, a trendy new bakery on Sweetea’s block. Chris is cute but still someone to be wary of… until a vandal hits Sunny’s and Anna matches the racist tag with a clue from her investigation.
Anna grew up in this town, but more and more she feels like maybe she isn’t fully at home here — or maybe it’s that there are people here who think she doesn’t belong. When a very specific threat is made to Anna, she seeks out help from the only person she can; Anna and Chris team up to find out who is stalking her and take on a dangerous search into the hate crimes happening around campus. Can they root out the ugly history and take on the current threat? —Synopsis provided by Bloomsbury YA
There are a couple of moving pieces in The Lies We Tell — Anna’s investigation into a seven-year-old murder; Anna’s relationship with Chris; racism on campus; and a dangerous stalker. You’d think this would add up to too many moving pieces, but author Katie Zhao has deftly weaved them all into a cohesive and compelling narrative.
Anna is a character you immediately want to know more about. Her experiences in the first chapter are immediately identifiable, making her feel like a kindred spirit. As you learn what makes her tick, you become a friend waiting in the wings, silently cheering her on.
Anna is just one piece in a giant mystery that has you guessing from beginning right up to the end. There are enough twists and turns to throw off your suspicions more than once.
Zhao’s prose and pacing are spot on, drawing you further in with each turn of the page. The Lies We Tell is a social activism/ romance/ thriller that you won’t want to put down. It’s one of the better YA ones I’ve recently read.
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