Friday, May 25, 2018

Let's Talk: "Lies You Never Told Me" by Jennifer Donaldson Book Review

Title: Lies You Never Told Me
Author: Jennifer Donaldson
Genre: YA Suspense/Thriller
Page Length: 336 pages
Publication Date: May 29, 2018
Date Started: May 18, 2018 
Date Finished: May 20, 2018
Rating: 2/5 stars

*I was provided a free advance review copy in exchange for my honest review*

I had high hopes for this book. When I got it in the mail, I was super excited to read it. Not only is the cover stunning, but the premise sounded interesting. What I got, however, was very disappointing, sadly. Overall, if it weren't for the high-action ending, I would have rated this book at a 1.5-1.75. I considered rating it higher when I had just finished it, but after sitting on my thoughts for a while, I decided upon a 2-star rating.

I would like to say that this review is mostly going to focus on the negative things that I thought could have been improved. I've noticed that two-star reviews and under for me tend to focus on the negatives simply because there was more of a negative reading experience for me than a positive one. Now that that's out of the way, let's get into my actual thoughts for this book.

I think that the first thing that really killed this book was the dual perspectives. Now, there are a lot of books that alternate two different perspectives, but this one did not do it well, in my opinion. Throughout the whole book, I was wondering why this was one book instead of two separate ones following two different people. While in the end, the storylines came together, it took a long time to get there and I was constantly annoyed by the change between the two.

Next thing that I didn't enjoy was the instant love. There was such insta-love in this book and it killed my enjoyment. After barely being introduced to two characters, suddenly they're talking about how in love they are and how they'd do whatever it took to be with the other. It was highly unrealistic. I found myself thinking that if it weren't for the dual perspectives, we could have had more development of each relationship and then I might have seen what made them fall in love. As it was, I was surprised when characters were suddenly declaring their love and whatnot.

Another problem I had with this book was the Romeo and Juliet parallel was not subtle and I found myself annoyed that R+J was the play that was chosen for the character's in the book to act out. There are a lot of different, amazing plays that could have been chosen instead that would have been equally as interesting. The student-teacher relationship could have developed with any play and I think that R+J being chosen was basically the author throwing it in our face that the relationship they had was supposed to mirror R+J.

The character depth and development was lacking, to say the least. There were very few characters that I liked. One of the main characters, while they went through a lot of problems throughout the book, seemed to stay the exact same. They didn't think differently or develop their personality more. It was very static and flat. Another character went through a big change but not in a way that made the reader care. They were a stereotypical character in that situation and I think that they could have been very promising if the author had written a different storyline for them. A lot of the other characters seemed to be there only to advance the two perspectives, despite four characters being listed on the cover.

One thing I didn't like was, while it worked well for the twist, one of the characters had a drastic change that we didn't see at all. One moment they were how we'd seen them the entire book and then they were a completely different person with the same name. I would have liked to see the development there because it turned a character that I was on the edge of liking into one I hated.

Other than those thing, what also hindered my reading experience from the very beginning was the little inconsistencies. Two main instances that are actually very subtle in terms of the overall book, but when I was already not enjoying the book, my brain seemed to pick out these inconsistencies and latch onto them. It really annoyed me, if I'm being honest. The first of these, while not a big deal at all, was when two characters were in the drive thru for coffee and they get their items and then pay. While I can't speak for the entire world, every drive thru that I have ever been in during my 18 years of life made you pay before you got your items. Again, not a big deal but definitely something that annoyed me.

The other thing that bugged me the entire story was the Snapchat deal. I won't say how exactly Snapchat is used, but one of the characters gets mysterious Snapchats from an "unknown number." When I read that, I had to stop and just look at it again for a few moments because that's not how Snapchat works. (1) If you're not friends with somebody on Snapchat, any snaps you send with be grey-colored and say "pending approval." This means that the receiver has to accept the friendship or message in order to see it (2) Even if that approval step was gone, Snapchat doesn't use numbers. It uses usernames. If the character didn't know the sender, they'd still see the sender's username. In fact, you can't even become friends with someone at Snapchat and then find their phone number through the app. That's not how it works. I felt like the author threw in Snapchat in a way to relate to the YA audience, but didn't do any research. It's clear that she didn't even download the app, which seems crucial if Snapchat is going to play any role in your story.

I felt that the author tried to write a suspenseful, high school suspense story, but the author doesn't know how teens really act and think. I think she tried, but she failed. The teenagers were unrealistic and stiff. At the very least, she should have hired teen beta readers because I've never met a teenager who thinks and acts these ways (except for Caleb and Irene). are the characters I liked:

  • Vivi, Gabe's younger sister. She was just super cute whenever we saw her.
  • Caleb, part 1 of Gabe's two best friends. He was funny and supportive.
  • Irene, part 2 of Gabe's two best friends. She was probably my favorite character, ngl.

Here are the characters I was neutral on:

  • Gabe: he didn't change at all and he alternated between being active and then passive. 
  • Elyse: she was interesting at some points, but overall she was impulsive and annoying at others

And here are the characters I disliked:

  • Catherine: there wasn't a moment I liked her; rude and annoying imo throughout the book
  • Aiden: read the book and you'll see
  • Elyse's mom: read the book and you'll see
Overall, I had high hopes for this book but was very disappointed. I was told this was a binge-worthy book, but I had to force myself to finish it in order to write this review. It was slow and the pacing was off. Barely anything had happened in the first 100 pages, except for a strong beginning which tapered off almost immediately. By the time I hit the last 100 pages, I wasn't even that glad to finally hit action, I was mostly just grateful that it didn't suck as much and I was almost done reading. 

Would I recommend this book? Not to my friends that have similar reading tastes. I believe that I would have enjoyed this book a lot if I had read it 3 years ago, but between reviewing books constantly and starting my first year as a college English major, I'm a lot more conscious of issues such as pacing, character depth, and more. Overall, I thought this book was poorly executed. Maybe things will change in the final edition, but I don't have high hopes.


Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my June preview as well as another Top 5 Wednesday and upcoming book reviews!


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