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Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—whether it’s Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage; or Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.
When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.
Seven Ways We Lie took me by surprise, because if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much. 7 POVs? So many issues dealt with? I was so ready for the train wreck. It didn’t happen.
I’m not gonna lie, arcs can be so stressful. There’s just something inherently intimidating in being one of the first to review a book : what if I missed something? What if my rating make people want to read this story only to be disappointed? But then I remember what every reader knows : no matter how hard we try, a review is only the reflect of an opinion. Here’s mine.
As I said, usually I can’t stand multiple POVs (except in Fantasy), but here I was never confused and Riley Redgate managed to create an original voice for every one of them. This is huge. Each and every one of them is fucked-up in some way or another. Their flaws make them all unlikeable at times, but above that, realistic, genuine and yes, strangely endearing.
► Olivia who has to face tons of shitty comments because of her sexual choices. I can’t deny that she was my favorite and I really, really liked her. I don’t know, the way she wore her loneliness and how strongly she cared about her sister got to me.
► Matt who’s been trying to numb himself for years and nurtures a crush on Olivia without even having talked to her : if you think that’s not believable, well, you didn’t spend the same adolescence as me >.<
► Juniper whose perfect life is slowly eating at her.
► Claire who endlessly needs to compare, compare, compare herself to others. Oh, Claire, you make it so hard to love you. Jealous. Anxious. But so realistic as a teenager whose self-esteem is always challenged and lowered by people around her : her friends, boys. Yet she rambles a lot about her achievements and we get the impression pretty fast that she thinks her treatment/image is unfair. Frankly, she made me feel… uneasy more often than not.
► Lucas whose smile hides so many fears. Lucas who needs to collect both friends and things.
► Kat who doesn’t know how to let her anger go. I feel as if I should have been annoyed by her, but I can’t. I know how it is to spend whole days gaming to forget real life.
They all have something to add to the story, whether their role is predominant, as Olivia, or mostly used to move the plot. To be honest, I thought I would be annoyed by this convenient way to handle twists but weirdly I wasn’t : their apparition did serve a purpose and were short enough to avoid breaking the flow of the story, and in the end, I cared for every one of them, even if I didn’t agree with all their choices, by far.
Indeed I really appreciated the different voices and in that sense I was pleased by the writing : nothing spectacular, yet it has this compelling quality I often fail to find in high school stories because they’re so cliché. However, I didn’t quite understand the need for Juniper’s POV to be written in a poetry fashion (it wasn’t annoying per se, but so random) and Riley Redgate‘s writing sometimes felt contrived (not necessarily in a bad way – I enjoyed most of these sayings – but I did notice it). Anyway, I was hooked from the beginning, so what more could I want?
There’s no denying that Riley Redgate tried to deal with so many issues that it was a little overwhelming at times and that fatally some of them were not completely tackled. This being said, isn’t it how life works? When judging whether the number of issues is believable or not, we have to take into account that we follow seven characters. Do I think that seven teenagers can know each other’s, every one of them having to face different problems in life? Definitely. Of course I do. I genuinely wonder how readers will welcome this, though. So many issues blended together that I can clearly see how it could be seen as weak and poorly treated. Yet it worked surprisingly well for me. Some parts were predictable, others made me grind my teeth, and I had to suspend my disbelief a few times. I still really liked my read, and that’s something I’m not willing to dismiss.
Before I let you go, I have to talk about the student-teacher relationship.
1) First of all, I read somewhere that people were baffled by the fact that the teacher in question isn’t suspended right away but I’m not sure I understand what’s the deal. Nobody knows who did what during most of the book, therefore indeed the teacher in question is not suspended. Which seems pretty understandable to me. Because. Nobody knows it’s him/her. So. Obviously.
2) To be completely honest, I’m not sure of what I think about the way it’s treated. While the way the head of school is announcing the rumor to the students appeared really unbelievable to me, I never lived that kind of situation so I can’t really judge.
3) As for the relationship in itself, do I think it’s unhealthy? Yes, but especially because of the way they NEED each other. Need isn’t love. This being said, I can’t ignore the big elephant hiding in the room and you’re probably thinking WTF, ANNA? ISN’T THE TEACHER STATUS THE MOST DISTURBING THING? And yes, of course it is. Though from the way the story unfolds, it’s pretty clear there’s no abuse of a teacher position towards a student at first, but… See, when you are a teacher you become so accurate in a Guess the age of this child! game. As an elementary teacher I’m rarely wrong with 4-10 yrs old I meet. You are around children so much, you notice the subtle differences. That’s why I have a hard time believing that the teacher in question didn’t guess that the teenager was under 18 and then possibly his/her student. I can’t deny that I felt manipulated into rooting for the teacher at times, and perhaps I’m judgmental, but I don’t want to. Whatever happened before, you’re the responsible adult and in my book, you’ll always be guilty.
Anyway, all of that is to say that I wasn’t really convinced on that particular aspect and that I wasn’t sold on the ending, which was generally way to positive to be completely believable and acceptable.
► I would still recommend this book to every reader who wants to think about what it is to be a teenager these days. On that note, I’ll leave the last word to Matt (I have a soft spot for him, I have to admit) :
“Sometimes you go a long time having fooled yourself into thinking that you’re as grown-up as you’ll ever be, or that you’re more mature than the rest of the world thinks you are, and you live in this state of constant self-assurance, and for a while nothing can upset your pedestal you’ve built for yourself, because you imagine yourself to be so capable. And then somebody does something that takes a golf club to your ego, and suddenly you’re nine years old again, pieced together from humiliation and gawky youthfulness and childlike ideas like, Somebody please tell me what to do, nobody taught me how to handle this, God, just look at all the things I still don’t understand, and you can’t muster up the presence of mind to do anything but stand there, stare, silent, sorry.”
Aw, Matt. That never stops, even when you’re a grown-up. Life never stops challenging us and the most important knowledge is the fact that we can’t know everything. But we have to try anyway.
*arc kindly provided by Amulet books through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*