Katie Zhao is an auto-buy author of mine. She knows how to do thriller and suspense right, after How We Fall Apart, so I was so excited for The Lies We Tell. And my expectations were not only met, but exceeded! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Anna Xu moving 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. While there she also finds a familiar face – her middle-school rival, Chris Lu. The Lus also 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?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: racism, racial slur
The Lies We Tell is a fantastic and action packed thriller meets activism. On the one hand, it’s a story about a mysterious death. What happens when someone’s life becomes a blip in the news. And who will tell the stories and deliver the justice. On the other hand, it’s a story about activism and racism. The ways institutions, society, and individuals will uphold and perpetuate racist ideas and actions. Layered with depth, The Lies We Tell straddles both of these lines with grace and complexity.
Yet The Lies We Tell is also grounded in characters. For Anna, she has to realize that we’ve become so immersed in our own isolation. It’s about how difficult it is to find friends, to be vulnerable with someone, and how people can exploit that. How it’s difficult to trust and to feel the sting of betrayal. This conflict alone – and how hard it is to start college – resonated hard with me. The nostalgic feels….At the same time, The Lies We Tell is also grounded in Anna’s family.
(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)
In her family’s fierce desire to survive. The weight of expectations, rivalries, and community on our shoulders. The Lies We Tell is yet another winner from Zhao. The theme that resonated the most with me were the insidious microaggressions of racism. The fetishization, the comments, the things we try to brush off. And I love how The Lies We Tell expands on this by layering tension and suspense. Find The Lies We Tell on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.