Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review: Little Black Lies by Tish Cohen

Title: Little Black Lies

Author: Tish Cohen

Pages: 320

Received from: author


Sara and her father are moving to Boston from small-town Lundun, Massachusetts. She is going to attend the very prestigious Anton High School—crowned “North America’s Most Elite and Most Bizarre” by TIME magazine, and harder to get into than Harvard. As the new girl, Sara doesn’t know anyone; better yet, no one knows her. This means she can escape her family’s checkered past, and her father can be a surgeon instead of “Crazy Charlie,” the school janitor.

What’s the harm in a few little black lies? Especially if they transform Sara into Anton’s latest “It” girl . . . .But then one of the popular girls at school starts looking into Sara’s past, and her father’s obsessive-compulsive disorder takes a turn for the worse. Soon, the whole charade just might come crashing down . . .

Sara Black is not having a good year.

Beside the fact that she has to move from her native Lundon (that's Massechusets, not England) for the hardcore high school known for it's Ivy-league graduates, her janitor father's OCD is hitting full force because of her mother's decision to leave for a cooking school in France (with her science teacher, by the way.) So surviving a year at Anton High for the brilliant and wealthy is definetly not something Sara's looking forward to. Soon, however, she finds a segway into the elite social status of Anton, but they require something of a spelling mistake and a whole mess of lies. And, as well all know, the shit has to hit the fan some time.

Little Black Lies is, in a word, simple. It's the tellings of a young girl who tells a few lies to get ahead in school. There isn't any kind of real complexity to speak of, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I rather liked the simple premise, and the simpler message: lies come back to haunt you.

The lies in question include, but are not limited to: she is from London (not Lundon), her mother is a French cheif (not a complete lie) and, most notably, her father is a brain surgeon who got her into the school because some of his patients work at Anton (as opposed to good ol' Charlie the Janitor, who cleans the sinks until his hands bleed and smells so strongly of bleach kids tear up when they approach him).

There is no malace in the lies Sara tells. In fact, for every fib she tells for the sake of position, she battles with her nagging conciounse for about twenty to thirty pages. These lies can even be seen as understandable; this is not a typical New Kid routine. This is a girl who has had no control in her life thus far, moving into a school of rich geniuses her Junior year (even though the school's official policy is no new students after Freshman year) because her OCD-riddled janitor of a father took a job. I mean, damn, I would fib a little too. The admirable trait about Sara is how guilty she feels about lying. I mean, most kids lie through their teeth every day without breaking a sweat, and here's this chick who literally loses hours of sleep because she told the titular "little black lie". This is probably the reason she's so likeable. Cohen doesn't glamorize lying, making it seem like this ploy to get you friends or status. There are some pretty juicy consequences to everything Sara does that, let me tell you, is way more then most YA authors would have the guts to write about.

The best aspect in this blogger's opinion is the relationship between Sara and her father, Charlie. Cohen creates this warm and lovable man, this ridiculously devoted father and all around nice guy whom, in any normal circumstance, would be a great person to read about, but then sticks him with this dibilitating illness that haunts both he and his daughter to the point where their positions are almost was just a sad thing, though beautifully excecuted.

I'm loving the math aspect of Little Black Lies (God help me if I ever say that again). Sara would make little equations in her head involving the people around her and the decisions they make, such as "Mom-(Dad+Me)=happiness".

The real depth from the plot comes with Sara's comparison's of her own life to the novel Crime and Punishment (which, until reading this book, I believed to be some kind of law encyclopedia...shut up). It was very interesting to read the parralels between Sara and Raskolnikov (whom she nicknames Rascal), as well as the itnerpretations she offers (which proves how intelligent she is, taking this novel out of the "She's Smart Because I Say So" category).

There were a lot of weird things too--such as the flashbacks Sara has of the weeks leading up to her mother's take off. While they are fascinating, they just came at weird and often irrelevant times in the text that I found myself forgetting where Sara left off and the flashback began. If there were maybe some smoother transitions, or more indications that this is the past and that is the present, this wouldn't have been a problem.

And what would a YA be without a freakin' love interest?

Leo. Dear, sweet Leo. If only I could have gotten to know you better, if only I could have gotten inside that little head and figure out exactly why you were dating The School Bitch for as long as you did when you clearly despised the dirt she walked on, we could have been something great. Your a nice guy, Leo, but you need to open up more. And why, my dear boy, are you so defensive about some scars you got on your chest from blowing up nail polish in middle school? You had me thinking you were a tragic, abused ruffian ala Cabel of Wake fame. That is teasing me, my friend, and I don't take well to teasing.

Despite the unfleshed out Leading Man and some strange flashback placements, Little Black Lies is definetly an intriguing novel that does a fine job of setting itself apart from the YA scene. I eagerly await any future releases Tish Cohen has for us.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Also: This song is stuck in my head and refuses to leave.


Dani. said...

Great review, you got really in-depth with it! :)

I cant wait to read this book, it looks awesome!

Caitlin said...

Love Owlcity that song is everywhere I also love Vanilla Twilight...good review :)

robby (onceuponabookblog) said...

sounds cute
i live in Massachusetts :D

Lea said...

Awesome review! It sounds pretty interesting.

Lol, I love that song. Very catchy ;)

hmsgofita said...

Great review...sounds like an interesting book.

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