Book Review: Tell Me Lies, by Carola Lovering

I read Tell Me Lies in about four days. I eagerly turned the pages even when I felt like screaming in frustration at the main characters––or, maybe because of that? Tell Me Lies is a New Adult novel that highlights a variety of disorders that can afflict us when young and often shapes our lives in ways that are unexpected and sometimes tragic. Set between New York City and southern California, the narrative spans the formative years of young Lucy Albright from high school through college and into the adult world, from first loves to first crushing realizations to first heartaches. Tell Me Lies is full of sex, deception, drugs, and binge drinking and highlights how one event can set you on a path for destruction.

How Did I Hear About Tell Me Lies?

I often go to my local bookstore to browse. This book was on a “New Release” rack near the check out counter. Did I mention the cover is Shocking Pink? The title repeats six times. The first five times the word Lies is crossed out and replaced with (respectively): You love me, You need me, I’m yours, It’s not over, and You’ll change. Immediately, I knew this book was for me. Of course, I can relate. Everyone can relate, right? What? You haven’t obsessed about a guy who was just so utterly wrong for you?

Anyway, I bought it.

Did the Opening Pages Grab My Attention?

Yes. The tone is set right away as quick-paced, snappy, and materialistic characters obsess about clothes, weight, money, education, status and are of the opinion they already know everything. I was pretty much the same at that age.

The book opens up in New York City with the protagonist Lucy Albright, who is now an adult working her way through the trenches of an online travel magazine. She is preparing to leave town for a former college friend’s wedding, where she is anxiously expecting to see someone from her past. Here, we jump back in time as Lucy recaps everything that leads up to this certain someone.

Meet, Stephen: arrogant, narcissistic, most likely sociopathic. Young Lucy doesn’t fall for his charm right away, but, as a vulnerable freshman in college, he knows how to reel her in. The patient methodology he undertakes in his pursuit of Lucy is more “yikes” than “awww, that’s so cute.” All I can say is I hate Stephen. He is that guy. If we were lucky, we dodged that bullet. If we were unlucky, hopefully, we came to our senses quickly. But Stephen is not just that guy. Stephen is so much worse than that guy.

What Kept Me Reading?

The narrative jumps between the present (wedding) and the past (everything before the wedding). We are first shown glimpses into Lucy’s high school years that give some explanation for her less than admirable character traits, caused by disillusionment in love, the loss of trust in her mother, and the pressure on girls of all ages to look and be a certain way. There is a deep and painful rift between Lucy and her mother, CJ, that I immediately sense is what’s at the heart of Lucy’s mental and physical decline and, mostly, at the heart of the story.

How Predictable Was the Outcome?

Okay, predictable, but I don’t think Lovering intended to hide anything and shock us with some profound realization in the end. Even Stephen’s big secret is not secret to the reader for long. Lovering even begins the story with the end. Lucy is fine. She’s working in New York City, has a new boyfriend, is a healthy weight and appears to be doing as well as can be expected of a person struggling to make it in the Big Apple. What we get by going back in time is Lucy’s emotional journey (and a crash course in sociopathic behavior).

Would I Recommend this Book to a Friend?

Yes. I would recommend Tell Me Lies to many of my friends (that read New Adult, Women’s Fiction or Chic Lit) and, especially, my eighteen year old daughter and my friend’s teenage and young adult daughters. Lovering does a convincing job of addressing a variety of mental disorders, including personality, mood, and eating disorders as well as highlighting the importance of communication, forgiveness and self-care. I would caveat my recommendation by saying not everyone in college does copious amounts of coke. Just … no.

Final Thoughts …

If your trust in someone has ever been shattered, if you have ever loved a guy who was not good for you in any way and you compromised your dreams, integrity or health for him (or all of the above), then you will enjoy this book. For me, the ending was satisfying. Some of us look back on our younger days and wonder why we ever did that and some of us know that we were out of our damn minds, that’s why.

Tell Me Lies is Carola Lovering’s first novel.

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