Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman

Beautiful Lies 
by Jessica Warman
Published: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Available: Amazon (pre-order)

Rachel and Alice are an extremely rare kind of identical twins-so identical that even their aunt and uncle, whom they've lived with since their parents passed away, can't tell them apart. But the sisters are connected in a way that goes well beyond their surfaces: when one experiences pain, the other exhibits the exact same signs of distress. So when one twin mysteriously disappears, the other immediately knows something is wrong-especially when she starts experiencing serious physical traumas, despite the fact that nobody has touched her. As the search commences to find her sister, the twin left behind must rely on their intense bond to uncover the truth. But is there anyone around her she can trust, when everyone could be a suspect? And ultimately, can she even trust herself?

Beautiful Lies is really all about lies. Not just the lies the characters tell each other, but also the lies the narrator tells the reader, and the tricks that the author plays on them. 

Part of those lies and tricks play into the idea that the girls come from a family with a history of mental illness. As the story progresses and we learn about the secrets and lies that are between the twins, it makes the idea of mental illness seem even more likely, but which one is suffering from it? The twin that is missing, who maybe really just ran away? Or the twin left behind, who is suffering from strange injuries? Warman worked so hard to make me not trust the narrator, yet then struggled to make me believe in her. Maybe that was her intention, to have me constantly questioning what was real, but it didn't work. When the first major 'lie' is revealed about 20% into the book, I was able to piece together most of the remaining plot really quickly. By halfway I had figured out the rest.

The sympathetic injuries would have been interesting, but I felt like certain aspects were being forced onto me. There's constant dialogue and narration about how the girls are an extremely rare type of twins, yada, yada, yada. Hearing it explained three times to different characters isn't going to make it believable. Let the actions and experiences of the twins speak to the power of it. Don't add in a cop with epilepsy and a guide dog that believes in her because he can make lights flicker. The cop doesn't have to have powers believe her at all, he only has to believe that she believes it, especially when his 'ability' never actually does anything for the plot.

There were parts I liked. Parts that were scattered throughout, but were disjointed by various overly descriptive memories that cut through them. Warman's writing shines when she is focused on the intensity of the action. There is a scene in the barn, which was wonderful, yet just before that there was a super long trip down memory lane that had me skimming paragraph after paragraph. This was a long book, 422 pages in print. So much of what was written was unnecessary to the central plot, yet was supposed to tie in, which made it even stranger that the end was wrapped up in less time than it took to describe the family that passes by the girls before the disappearance. The way I see it, a kidnapping/missing person story is a story that needs urgency. There is absolutely none of that, and one of the biggest details that would have given all the other characters a reason to be feeling urgent is a lie that the narrator keeps, which even after reading the entire book, I still don't get why she wouldn't have confessed to it the minute she 'knew' something was wrong.

This is definitely a book for readers who are up for a long read, love detail, and don't mind guessing if what they are being told is the truth. Personally I like to have some trust in my narrator.

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