ARC Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies we tell ourselvesGenres: Historical, Contemporary, Young Adult
Release Date: September 30th, 2014
Publisher Harlequin Teen
Source:  eARC from Edelweiss
Check out on GOODREADS

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.


When I first saw the blurb for this book, I, like many, felt the need to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible. I had incredibly high expectations right from the beginning but as other reviews started coming in, those already high expectations soared. When I finally dived into the book (along with Jasprit), I wasn’t sure I was ready but I knew I’d face the heartbreak that was bound to be in this book. All I can say is that it was worth it. This book was worth all the pain I experienced while reading it. This book was worth every second I spent reading it. This book was worth the fact that I didn’t get any homework done and instead had to do a lot more work the next day. This book was WORTH IT.

The story is told in dual narration, Sarah being one narrator and Linda being the other. The number one reason that this style works for this book, aside from the fact that it’s well written, is how the author manages to contrast these two narrative and thus truly showing us different sides.

Sarah is a young black woman who is taking part in an integration program and is part of the first group of African-Americans to attend Jefferson High. I am sure you already have a vague idea of how well that goes but I think what makes Sarah so heartbreakingly relatable is that she didn’t even want to be part of this group integrating the school in the first place. She did it to make her parents proud.  I know if I were in her shoes, I would rather have had someone do the work for me so I wouldn’t have to go through everything they went through.  What makes me love her as a character though is that in spite of the fact she wishes that she could go back to her whole school so she wouldn’t have to endure so much humiliation on such a regular basis, she still holds her head high and makes the best of her situation.

Linda on the other hand is hard to like at first. I was so ridiculously surprised when I realized SHE would be the love interest and that SHE was the other narrator. The first impression we got of her from Sarah’s POV was not the least bit flattering. She seemed like she would be a bully like the rest of the assholes and for a while she was. But that was the point. Linda has been told what is wrong and what is right her whole life. She has been fed lies and she believes them to be the truth so she isn’t just going to wake up one day and realize that everything that has been happening is wrong. She is going to want to cling on to her beliefs, like anyone else would! It doesn’t mean it makes her likeable but she was easy to sympathize with. Before I make you all vary of her, I should say this, she undergoes MAJOR character development and it’s a beautiful process. It’s worth sticking around for just to see her finally rise on her own feet and form her OWN opinions of what is right and what’s not.

“Truth #2

None of them can touch me”

I felt the need to share that bit from the book in my review just because it’s so powerful. It’s not even necessarily a quote but I got the chills the first time I read it and I still do! It also kind of sums up the plot. I am sure it’s not that hard to imagine how heartbreaking this book will be and the kind of courage the characters must possess to endure all that they have and still carry on. It all just comes down to whether they are going to let themselves be affected by the words and the actions of the bullies (although bully is too feeble a word to describe some of those people). They don’t have the power to affect you unless you let them.

The romance was just as brilliantly crafted as the rest of the book. Can you imagine how hard Sarah must have it? Being an African-American during that period of time and on top of that finding out she isn’t attracted to guys? Well let’s just say it’s not easy. With that said, this book didn’t actually focus as much on Sarah’s sexual orientation since there were a lot more important things going on. The romance did, however, play an important role aside from just being there. The romance brought together Linda and Sarah and it gave Linda and opportunity to reassess her beliefs. Linda’s attraction to Sarah helped her grow into a person who was admirable and could stand up for herself and didn’t just parrot other people’s thoughts.

This is, very simply put, a book everyone needs in their lives. I am not saying it’s for everyone, because it isn’t, some people might find that they cannot bear the pain and others, for some unconceivable reason, might just not like it at all, but, this book is important. It has furthered the boundaries of YA and brought things up a notch. It reminds me of why I absolutely love YA and how finding gems in this demographic can be so absolutely worth it. So stop, drop and read this book.

Rating Report
Overall: 4.6
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Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).


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  1. says

    I agree 100% with you Rashika! This book IS important, this book IS a MUST read and even thought it is a very tough book to read because it’s so emotional and so raw and it gave me palpitations reading about what poor Sarah had to go through, it is a book that I’m extremely happy I read and that I hope many many people will read.
    Great review!!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #63!!My Profile

  2. says

    OH MAN same here! I was super surprised it was Linda that was going to be the love interest! I thought it was gonna be that other girl! I seriously wasn’t expecting what happened in this novel, but I loved it a lot :D :D
    Valerie recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday #27My Profile

  3. says

    I’m SO glad you liked this one, Rashika!!! XD I did too! Although, I was weirded out when I realised Linda would be a narrator too. but then. WOAH. Amazing and fabulousness. I was impressed that the book wasn’t just about racism towards African-Americans…but also sexism against woman. Like I think it was awesome that Linda represented girls who were expected to ditch school and get married ASAP and that was it for their lives. Sucks. I adored the ending too. SO HAPPY. ^-^
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…Beautiful Books #1: Let’s Talk Books || New Linkup of AwesomeMy Profile

  4. says

    I actually have a copy of this book on my kindle and I’m so much right now! I love hearing good things about this book and even though I haven’t had time to read it yet you make me want to drop everything and read it now! Oh I’m so glad this one worked for you! Brilliant review :)
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  5. says

    RASHIKA. I have missed you girl! I hope your studies are going well! This book sounds really unique, diverse and brilliant. It does sound like Linda goes through some immense character development that would really make you root for her. I love that quote that you shared as well, definitely powerful. I definitely think I need this in my life!
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Chatterbox: 20 Things You Might Not Know About Me TagMy Profile

  6. says

    Girl, this one is so on my radar. I do love a well written historical and this one seems to be exactly like that. It seems to go against convention of the time certainly, and even now really with the lesbian relationship. I think the race issues coupled with sexual identity could make one hell of a powerful story and it sounds like Talley certainly achieved just that. I can’t wait read this story and feel its emotional impact.

    I like the idea of a duo narration, it would really allow you to get into the mindset of two very different people and their experiences in the time period. I can totally see how it would be hard to get behind Linda’s POV at first though. It sounds like she really did represent that narrow mindness of the time period. It’s great that she went through all that development- I really do love going on a journey with characters in a story.

    Lovely review Miss Rashika <33 And I MISS YOU
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