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Posted December 9, 2010
Reviewed by John Jacobson aka "R.J. Jacobs" for Teens Read Too
Moving to ASMA (American Science and Mathematics Academy) gave James a chance to change himself. No longer would he be the nerdy guy who didn't get a date or any attention. No longer would he be invisible. Instead, James can start a new life. Through lying. Suddenly, James is seen as someone exciting. Sure, he's going to a school for math and science, but there is a definite sense of coolness about him now. He hangs out with his roommate, Dickie, and another boy dubbed Heinous. Together, they are a group of three troublemakers who pull off the occasional theatrical display and somehow manage to be respected by some at ASMA. James also has something else going on at school. Or someone else. Ellie, aka the Ice Queen, is one of the most popular sophomore girls. She expertly ignores him, but he can't help but like her. His lies grow as his crush on her grows, and soon he finds himself talking to a mysterious stranger on IM named ghost44. He also begins to have strange dreams where he fights demons for two strangers named Nick and Kiana. Who is ghost44, and how can James manage to keep his real identity throughout all of the lying? Mitchell creates a character the reader is intrigued by. James keeps his distance as the center of our story, and remains an enigma throughout. From the first page we see him build up an identity that isn't really his, pretending to have gotten into street fights and even cutting himself. It's rather a slow trend into his depression, and it's very dark and broken - much like the cover of the novel. He's rather unlikable sometimes, but the author's intent is rather obvious. As the reader, you are not supposed to like this journey at the beginning. James is, after all, denouncing himself. I also appreciated the way he worked on relationships. James is curious about sex and does date someone named Jessica early on, but he quickly recognizes his feelings for her aren't really romantic. He is honest about this, and it was nice not to have a love triangle going on, or having a main character convince themselves that they should, in fact, be in love with said person. Mitchell treated the relationships realistically, and that was a highlight for me. I also enjoyed the friendship between Heinous, Dickie, and James. It was close but not super-close. It felt realistic considering the emotional distance James has and the way that teenagers have superficial relationships. Some parts of the novel were not very exciting; this definitely isn't an action-adventure novel. James' emotional distance also hinders the reading experience somewhat, as you don't always feel emotionally invested in his story. There is also a level of complexity in the novel that, while interesting, makes it hard to get into for this type of read. The dreams are short and fairly average, but with ghost 44...they will make the reader try and search hard for a message that will not be easily apparent at the beginning of the novel. Overall, it is just a slower experience for the reader. It may hinder some, but it makes the book a deeper and more interesting read. If you are looking for a book that is completely original with a gritty take on teenagerdom, THE SECRET TO LYING is right up your alley.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Sharp, funny, dark, and compelling. A point-blank exploration of teen image issues.
This book really surprised me. I've read other reviews that compared it to John Green's Looking for Alaska, probably because it takes place in a boarding school, with witty, intelligent characters who pull lots of pranks. But beyond that, these books take very different paths.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The Secret to Lying is narrated by James, a high school sophmore who is desperate to be someone. So when he gets into a school for students gifted in math and science, he decides to reinvent himself as the person he literally always dreamed of being. He tells some outlandish lies, and the geeks believe him. But his new found fame comes with a price, as his identity fractures.
The book integrates three interlacing story lines in a totally unique way. One is James' quest to be popular. Another is an I.M. affair he carries out with the eloquent ghost44, who sees through his lies. And the third depicts James's internal struggle, as his fictionalizing of himself results in his being trapped in an a dark city overrun by demons where he fights to win control of what perhaps should not be controlled. It's a potent illustration of how all problems, in essence, exist in our minds.
There's some heavy stuff here --anorexia, cutting, drinking, and other self-destructive behaviors. What the Secret of Lying does fantastically well, though, is to explore the reasons behind such behaviors in a dramatic way that avoids simplification. Quite simply, it's a book about being. As a teacher, I'm always on the lookout for honest, interesting books to recommend to smart teens who are struggling to figure out how to be themselves. I'm also always on the lookout for books that might appeal to teen boys. This one definitely does both --and will go down with some of my all-time favorites such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Catcher in the Rye as an edgy, honest, powerful book to remember and pass on.
Posted June 21, 2010
Witty, edgy, and real teen classic! Awesome read!
This coming of age story gives a very real and yet original portrayal of the struggle and cost of finding one's niche in high school. The writing is engrossing, edgy, deep, authentic, and wildly witty! Great read! My favorite book of the year. I'm eager to see more from this author!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2010
A Good Addiction Reviews
A train wreck waiting to happen and an artful blurring between reality and fantasy, The Secret To Lying masterfully delves into one teen's struggle to be noticed. The boy who was often forgotten, James finds himself at a new school with a fresh start. With opportunity ample before him, he holds nothing back in the stories he comes up with regarding his past- until it becomes too much even for him.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
On a shallow level, this book is about lying and reaping what's been sown. On the deeper level Mitchell incorporated, this book is the epitome of teenage confusion and a struggle to find one's self. A coming of age novel mixed with moralistic questions, The Secret To Lying is a refreshing read for any age. James' internal struggles, debates and fears aren't hidden, clearly driving much of his actions throughout the book. Unable to see far enough in the future to realize the path he is on and resistant to help, James does nothing but continue to delve deeper into the darkness that threatens to engulf him.
James is masterfully done, making a complete character change early on as soon as he starts at his new school before developing through great strides by the end of the book. There are three different characters seen throughout centered with this one person and Mitchell has created a unique, memorable and promising method to bring about each one. Subtly touching on many areas of psychological, rationalization and motivations, James is a character any teenager- male or female- will relate to. Even the most outwardly confident teen will find some consolation in James' struggles and from an outside perspective, his decisions and chosen methods to deal with the demons battling inside him can easily be identified as inept. From inside James' head, however, the reader can easily understand the drives behind his lying and other things he does. Mitchell holds nothing back when he puts this character on display, creating a strong emotional connection between reader and damaged character.
In his journey to finding himself, James encounters a range of characters and because of the ASMA school setting, the social groups are different. This is a place where the geeks can be bold without repercussion, the nerds can be popular and being smart is idealized rather than ostracized. In some ways, James attending a boarding high school is much like a college freshman, suddenly rapt with new opportunities and no parental supervision. While some handle it smoothly, others go overboard and given his mental state starting at the school, James' actions are easily understood.
Enter Jess, a punk style girl who shows interest in him and though an attraction is there, it is clear to both the reader and even James other things are off and missing. This relationship is a fluid example of teenage emotions, torn between a desire to be with someone and confusion over what they should be feeling. A lack of one thing and an upsurge of another create turmoil within James, pulling the reader along for the ride and leaving them as unsure about the outcome as James. Confounding James further is his inexplicable reactions and feelings towards Ellie, a popular girl dubbed as The Ice Queen. He is both annoyed and infatuated by her, unable to sift through and understand his reactions. James' interactions with both Jess and Ellie are enjoyable though at times painful and help pull the plot and character development along beautifully.
Overall, this is a fantastic read.
Posted June 30, 2010
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