Strong characterisation and near prefect writing coupled with a meticulously planned and gripping plot: this teen thriller is about as good as it gets. An absolute must-read.
Fifteen year-old Mae has only vague memories of life before her dad, an internationally famous psychiatrist, set up Hummingbird Creek. To Mae the strict timetable, stringent exercise routine and perfectly balanced organic diet are normal. The Creek’s patients – teens with psychological problems – might find it unnerving to be trapped in the middle of nowhere with no mobile phone or internet but Mae thinks she’s lucky. Or she does until a chance incident reveals her parents have been lying about her mum’s family. Mae starts to wonder what else they might have lied about. Soon Mae is questioning everything she’s been told about Hummingbird Creek with dangerous, and potentially deadly, consequences.
Sue Wallman’s debut novel, Lying About Last Summer, was my favourite book of 2016 (I’d have given it 6 stars if I could) and was subsequently selected to join Zoella’s Autumn Book Club. I was, therefore, slightly concerned that See How They Lie would be a let-down. I needn’t have worried. I didn’t just live up to my expectations, it massively exceeded them. In a feat that I didn’t think was possible, See How They Lie is actually even better: can I, perhaps, invent a new 7 star rating?
To be honest it took me a few chapters to fall in love with the book. It starts with an interesting premise and near perfect writing but, as I read the opening chapters, I was slightly dubious. Why? Because I really didn’t like our main character – fifteen year old Mae – and that’s got to be a problem in a first person narrative. Accepting of everything she’s told and uncomfortable with the idea of bending even the most minor of rules, she’s not our typical heroine. Indeed, in those opening chapters, I constantly wanted to slap poor Mae. But then Mae starts to question what’s she always believed and the reader is right there with her. Indeed, it’s all the more powerful because we’re taken on this journey with Mae. Suddenly we’re hooked, desperate to understand what’s going on and twisting our brain to put together all those carefully planted clues.
I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to plan the plot for this story: everything’s set up in advance but it takes the reader a ridiculously long time to twig the true horror behind the tiniest detail. Sadly, it’s difficult to say more without spoilers. So, as with Sue Wallman’s previous book, I’ll just warn you not to start reading unless you’ve enough time to read to the end. I made the mistake of reading before I went to bed and found myself in the early hours still turning those pages.
Publication Date: March 2017
Author: Sue Wallman
Review first published on The Bookbag