If the Witness Lied

If the Witness Lied

by Caroline B. Cooney


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, July 25


This young adult thriller takes place in twenty-four hours and explores how people as well as the media can exploit a situation with devastating results, especially when innocent children are involved.
Jack Fountain knows that what’s happened to his family sounds like the most horrible soap opera anyone could ever write. But it’s all true. It happened—to his parents; to his sisters, Smithy and Madison. And to his baby brother, Tris. What made it worse was that the media wanted to know every detail.
   Now it's almost Tris’s third birthday, and everything’s starting again. Aunt Cheryl, who’s living with the Fountain children, has decided that they will heal only if they work through their pain—on camera. It will be a field day for the media, and no one, except Cheryl, wants that. Jack and his sisters gear up to keep Tris’s adorable face off-screen, but they quickly realize that there is more at stake than their privacy. The very identities they’ve created for themselves are called into question. What really happened the day of their father’s accident?
   The Fountain siblings have less than twenty-four hours to change their fate. Together, they will ask questions no one asked at the time of the tragedy. And together, they vow that this time, they will not be exploited.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385734493
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 08/10/2010
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 629,884
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Caroline B. Cooney is the author of many books for young people, including the bestseller The Face on the Milk Carton (an IRA-CBC Children’s Choice Book) and its companions, Whatever Happened to Janie? and The Voice on the Radio (each of them an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults), as well as What Janie Found; Three Black Swans; If the Witness Lied; They Never Came Back; Diamonds in the Shadow; A Friend at Midnight; Hit the Road; Code Orange; The Girl Who Invented Romance; Family Reunion; Goddess of Yesterday (an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book); The Ransom of Mercy Carter; Tune In Anytime; Burning Up; What Child Is This? (an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults); Driver’s Ed (an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and a Booklist Editors’ Choice); Among Friends; Twenty Pageants Later; and the Time Travel Quartet: Both Sides of Time, Out of Time, Prisoner of Time, and For All Time, which are also available as The Time Travelers, Volumes I and II.

Caroline B. Cooney lives in South Carolina and New York.

Read an Excerpt


The good thing about Friday is—it's not Thursday. Jack Fountain lived through Thursday, and nothing bad happened: no cameras, no microphones.
Of course, nothing good happened either. Jack did not hear from either of his sisters.
Their father's birthday—and Jack and Madison and Smithy pretended it wasn't there; that November fifth was just another day.

And in fact, thinks Jack, walking into the high school cafeteria, it was just another day. Dead people don't have birthdays.

Around him, hundreds of kids are buying lunch, skipping lunch or finding lunch partners. His goal is to be normal, although the Fountain family stopped being normal a long time ago. Jack is considering his options when Diana Murray walks past. "We need to talk," she murmurs.

This seems odd. How would Diana know about Dad's _birthday?

But Diana does not pause beside Jack. She keeps walking, moving casually out of the cafeteria and into the hall.

If Diana doesn't want anybody to overhear their conversation, then this is not about a birthday. This is about Jack's baby brother, Tris. Something else has gone wrong; something Jack hasn't planned for. Diana is on the Tris protection team. It's a small group. Usually a two-year-old has parents to protect him, but Tris is not that lucky. He has only his big brother and his babysitter.

Jack returns his brown plastic tray to the clean pile and strolls away, as if merely leaving the hot line for the salad and sandwich line. Then he drifts out of the cafeteria and down the hall, where Diana is leaning over the watercooler.

Because of Tris, Diana knows more about Jack than he wants her to. But then, the world knows more about Jack than he wants it to. His friends love to display their lives on video sites, but they get to choose what's out there. Jack doesn't.

The last few students with first lunch hurry past. Jack stands behind Diana, pretending to wait his turn for a drink of water. He braces himself for a Tris nightmare. He's trapped in his failure-to-breathe mode: a clenched, solid feeling, as if he's a different species, and will now function without oxygen.

Diana speaks so quietly that Jack has to bend down to hear. He's grown almost six inches this year, making him the tallest sophomore, as well as the best known. Jack is popular. It's partly because he is the one who stays, the one who gives up everything, including varsity, to take care of Tris. But mostly, it's because he's been on television.

Television hung out in his yard, focused on his face and attended the funerals. Of all his classmates, only Diana grasps that television is a force in destroying his family, and even Diana tells Jack how adorable he is in that shot where he lifts up his baby brother and carries him home.

Jack's cheek touches the thick, curly black hair Diana never seems to brush or trim or even know about. Diana's voice barely makes it through her hair. "Tris was playing outside this morning, before your aunt Cheryl took him to day care. When he saw me, he raced over to say hi."

Jack imagines his brother's little legs pumping as he hurries over two front yards to the Murray house. It's a true escape, because Aunt Cheryl usually takes Tris straight from the breakfast table to the car seat.

"Your aunt Cheryl was looking really annoyed, so I hauled him back and put him in his car seat for her."

Why do girls have to give so much data? Jack manages to breathe a little, slow and stealthy, as though he's keeping his lungs a secret. A pinpoint headache sparkles behind his eyes, like a tiny firecracker going off.

"I distracted your aunt Cheryl by asking about her plans for the day. She starts talking in this hysterical voice about closets and clutter. She's going to clean out your bedroom and paint it, Jack. She knows you'll never say yes, so she's doing it before you can stop her."

Laughter bursts out where panic has been building. This isn't about Tris. It's about one of Aunt Cheryl's silly TV shows. She lives for programs where people paint their walls. When she turns on the TV—actually, she never turns it off—she isn't hoping for a good movie with a car chase. She wants to see the lid pried off a paint can. She wants to gaze upon the sewing of window treatments. Her life's dream is to be a guest on such a show. Or any show.

Jack straightens up, grinning and breathing normally. His headache vanishes as fast as a change in the weather. "So who are you, then?" he teases. "Diana Murray, secret agent for remodeling plans?"

Diana looks up soberly. "The afghan your mother knit you? Your aunt Cheryl doesn't like the colors. The tickets from when you and your dad went to the World Series? Your aunt Cheryl doesn't like the frame. Your closet? Stuffed with junk? Your aunt Cheryl wants to chuck it."

Aunt Cheryl will throw anything out, so Jack habitually checks the trash cans. But it has not occurred to him that she might invade his very own closet. He cannot let this happen. His most precious possessions are on the floor of that closet.

The headache comes back so savagely Jack feels as if his brain is being dragged on the pavement, like a broken muffler scraping under a car.

Back when it happened, Jack believed everything would be okay. After all, the ambulance came quickly; the police gathered. These were professionals in his driveway. Jack was reassured. When they agreed to let Jack go along to the hospital, he walked over to his father's Jeep, reached through the open door, and got the sunglasses and cell phone, lying as usual in the little well next to the parking brake.

Dad will need these, Jack thought. He never travels without them.

But it turned out that Dad was traveling to another world, where he would not, in fact, need them. And since he wouldn't need his watch or wallet, either, the hospital turned these over to Jack as well.

Jack cannot bear to touch or even look at them. But neither can he bear to lose them. They're inside Dad's steel-toed work boots, stowed in the back of the closet, where they're safe but he won't have to think about them. (After it happened, not thinking became a family specialty. It's hard to say whether Jack or Smithy or Madison is best at it.)

It's eleven-twenty.

If Aunt Cheryl has started her project, she could already have taken a carload to the dump. Actually, there is no dump anymore. There's a transfer station, which is worse. At a dump, Jack could poke around and retrieve things. But at the transfer station, belowground, where open metal containers guarded by a sanitation crew are eventually hooked up to trucks and driven away, nobody's going to let Jack jump down inside to hunt for old boots.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

If the Witness Lied 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
The four Fountain children are orphans. They first made headlines when their mother gave her life to save that of her unborn fourth child. The controversy centered on her battle with cancer and her refusal to accept chemotherapy at the risk of harming her unborn child. Overzealous news reporters portrayed baby Tris as his mother's killer. The second time the family hit the headlines was when a tragic accident killed their father. Once again, little Tris was labeled as guilty of killing his remaining parent. Now the media has been called in by their faithful guardian, Aunt Cheryl. She believes that facing their tragic situation in front of television cameras in a docudrama is the only way to help the children deal with the ghosts of their past. In the year since their father's death, young Jack has remained in the family home, helping Aunt Cheryl with the care of almost three-year-old Tris. His sisters, Madison and Smithy, chose to head their separate ways, one to live with godparents and the other to attend boarding school. Now, both girls have realized the importance of family and are returning home to discover startling developments regarding their father's accident. Could it be that the one witness of the horrible event may have lied? Could that witness actually be a murderer, and how can three teens and one toddler prove it? Caroline B. Cooney is known for her mystery and suspense. IF THE WITNESS LIED is one of her best. The tragic family portrait she creates is sure to captivate readers from page one. It is difficult to imagine the pain and suffering these characters have been dealt, and then to throw in a potential evil so cleverly disguised, it becomes a story almost impossible to put down. Once teens get the word on this one, it won't stay on bookshelves long.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a lot... until the end the ending is so rushed its like on the last two pages its like the author ran out of ideas and i even like caroline b. Cooney so the rushed ending was a real shock to me :/
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Most people would be excited to be on TV, but the Fountain children have already had too much publicity because both their parents died in dramatic ways. Now Aunt Cheryl has invited a producer to make a documentary, which would thrust them--especially baby brother Tris--back into an unwanted spotlight. Jack is desperate to shield his brother. Can he and his sisters protect Tris--and themselves? And what exactly did happen the day their father died?
BGMSTeachers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A family is torn apart by tragedy but a wicked aunt tries to exploit the family by selling their story to TV. This book is part mystery and suspense, but partly about the roles each of the siblings takes on when baby Tris is held responsible for killing both his mother (she refuses chemo while she is pregnant with him, and then dies) and his father (Tris accidentally kills his father by releasing the parking brake when his father looks for something under the car). But who is really responsible? And how can this family ever heal again?
GG18 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book, if the witness lied was a great book and what it was about was this family who had lost thier mom and dad and people say that a three year old had killed them they say that tris the three year old had killed his own mom and dad they say the mother did because of giving birth to tris and his father by runing him over.But is it true?After their mother died the kids,smithy,madison,tris,and jacks aunt cheryl came to help out and then their father died and then smithy was off to bording school and things wear like no privicy what so ever because of the media about tris and them calling him a murder.And after a while the girls came back to help them get the media of their backs and tri to keep tris safe.will they all be able to do it?just read this book and find out what happens.
Tylerballer5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book because it was a very good mystery. My favorite part was when the dad got hit by the car or as i should say smashed but it was out of no where thats what i like about it. It was also the saddest part.This was a very great mystery agin. Also, my other part was when Madison felt that someone was in the room with her thats what makes this book sooooooooooooo mysterious.
MrsDayClass on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really like how justice prevailed in the end.
librarian_k on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pretty run-of-the-mill Cooney. She's done better, but this one was okay.
ShellyPYA on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After their father's "murder" by their baby brother, Jack takes on the role of protecting baby Triss while his sisters leave to try to forget what happened. When Jack "aunt" brings a tv crew to film a reality show about the family, he and his sisters reunite to stop it, and discover that baby Triss may not have been the culprit after all.
nicole on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a short period of time, the four Fountain children lost both of their parents. Before their father died, the former stepsister of the children¿s mother had come forward to live with the family claiming she wanted to help. Now that their father is dead too, Cheryl has set up the house how she wants it and alienated the children to the point that one lives with her godparents while the other sister has enrolled in boarding school. Only Jack and toddler Tris remain in the unhappy house. As their father¿s birthday passes and the anniversaries of their parents¿ deaths approach, the children feel a need to come together. That¿s when they discover Cheryl has been lying to them; the three teens haven¿t agreed to be involved in the TV show Cheryl has planned, but that¿s what she tells them knowing they haven¿t had much communication in the last year. Now the question is, if Cheryl is lying about this, what else has she lied about?This is a good story, but it requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. It¿s just a little too much to believe that everything would happen as written. I don¿t want to do spoilers, but I can say that I sincerely doubt the media would¿ve been interested in the story (that is, until the protesters showed up at the house, but they could¿ve only known to protest if the story had been picked up. I also doubt anyone would actually protest what they are said to protest; if anything, people protest the exact opposite!). Cheryl¿s motivation is more than a little sketchy. In the end, things just don¿t quite add up.
Rowdycat More than 1 year ago
Through two tragedies--their mother dying from cancer shortly after Tris is born and their father being killed in what was thought to be an accident--Tris' siblings, a brother and two sisters fall apart. Tris is blamed for killing his mother because she chose his birth to be more important than her life and at two-years-old causing his father's death in a freak car accident(?). Things come to a head about a year after their father's death.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its definately a musy read. Definately suggest for any age. Nothing inapproite at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mackenzie nichols More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much once i started to read it i could not put it down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago