book review · historical fiction · reading · review · YA

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley | Book Review


Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Pages: 368

Format: Paperback

Buy the Book: Waterstones, Amazon, The Book Depository


Goodreads Summary: It’s 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it’s Sarah Dunbar’s first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High. No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda Hairston, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise each other. But as a school project forces them to spend time together, the less their differences seem to matter. And Sarah and Linda start to feel something they’ve never felt before. Something they’re both determined ignore. Because it’s one thing to be frightened by the world around you – and another thing altogether when you’re terrified of what you feel inside.

This book had been sitting on my Amazon wishlist for a while, so when I finally found it in Foyles, I was SO excited, but also a little bit scared. A lot of the books I had been really looking forward to recently had disappointed me in one way or another. I am glad to say, this was not the case with Lies We Tell Ourselves.

There aren’t many books that I can just sit down and read without getting distracted after about 20 pages, but this was one of them. I was so invested in Sarah and Linda’s story even if it was difficult to read about. The racism Sarah faces is horrific but realistic, but I am also so glad that Talley didn’t skim over it or water it down in any way. Sarah is a fantastic character who is so resilient and brave, even when she doesn’t feel like she is, and I thought the journey she went on was brilliantly executed with a great message. Linda was an interesting character to read about, because first and foremost she is racist. Her character does develop, but over time, and she finds it very difficult to let go of ideas and beliefs that she has been brought up with.

One of the things I love about this book is the intersectionality. Not only does it talk about race during the civil rights movement, but also sexuality. Sarah and Linda both feel drawn to one another in a way they both soon realise is more than just friendship.Talley does a great job at portraying their internal struggle as they try to deal with their feelings in a society where homosexuality is illegal and there is no positive representation for what they are feeling. I know some people feel like this book tried to ‘stuff too much in’ and should’ve just focused on one issue but that’s what I liked about it. It felt far more realistic to life in that not everyone has to deal with just one problem or form of oppression and it felt so refreshing to find a book that discussed both.

It was great to see in the Author’s Note that Talley did extensive research for this novel and looked up many accounts and articles about desegregation in the South during the 1950’s and 60’s, and you can tell this when reading the book. Research is so important with historical fiction, particularly when you are writing about a character from a community that is not your own.

I was so pleased that this book lived up to my expectations and can’t wait to read Talley’s other novel that I own, and for her next book out later this year. This is a tough, but important read that discusses a variety of issues and I want to push this book  into the hands of everyone I know.

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