"I'm not saying this is Sawyer's fault," the prim and proper one said delicately. "But."
Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother's "society" might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father's identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn't expect to find is friendship, but as she's drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn't the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother's glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer's search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning.
Set in the world of debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines a charming setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off.
About the Author
Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written more than a dozen acclaimed young adult novels, including The Naturals series: The Naturals, Killer Instinct, All In, Bad Blood and the e-novella, Twelve. A former debutante herself, Jen is also a Fulbright Scholar with advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science. Jen received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2012 and is currently a professor of psychology and professional writing at the University of Oklahoma. You can find her online at www.jenniferlynnbarnes.com or follow her on Twitter @jenlynnbarnes.
Read an Excerpt
NINE MONTHS EARLIER
Catcalling me was a mistake that most of the customers and mechanics at Big Jim's Garage only made once. Unfortunately, the owner of this particular Dodge Ram was the type of person who put his paycheck into souping up a Dodge Ram. That — and the urinating stick figure on his back window — was pretty much the only forewarning I needed about the way this was about to go down.
People were fundamentally predictable. If you stopped expecting them to surprise you, they couldn't disappoint.
And speaking of disappointment ... I turned my attention from the Ram's engine to the Ram's owner, who apparently considered whistling at a girl to be a compliment and commenting on the shape of her ass to be the absolute height of courtship.
"It's times like this," I told him, "that you have to ask yourself: is it wise to sexually harass someone who has both wire cutters and access to your brake lines?"
The man blinked. Once. Twice. Three times. And then he leaned forward. "Honey, you can access my brake lines any time you want."
If you know what I mean, I added silently. In three ... two ...
"If you know what I mean."
"It's times like this," I said meditatively, "that you have to ask yourself: is it wise to offer to bare your man-parts for someone who is both patently uninterested and holding wire cutters?"
"Sawyer!" Big Jim intervened before I could so much as give a snip of the wire cutters in a southward direction. "I've got this one."
I'd started badgering Big Jim to let me get my hands greasy when I was twelve. He almost certainly knew that I'd already fixed the Ram, and that if he left me to my own devices, this wouldn't end well.
For the customer.
"Aw hell, Big Jim," the man complained. "We were just having fun."
I'd spent most of my childhood going from one obsessive interest to another. Car engines had been one of them. Before that, it had been telenovelas, and afterward, I'd spent a year reading everything I could find about medieval weapons.
"You don't mind a little fun, do you, sweetheart?" Mr. Souped-Up Dodge Ram clapped a hand onto my shoulder and compounded his sins by squeezing my neck.
Big Jim groaned as I turned my full attention to the real charmer beside me.
"Allow me to quote for you," I said in an absolute deadpan, "from Sayforth's Encyclopedia of Archaic Torture."
One of the finer points of chivalry in my particular corner of the South was that men like Big Jim Thompson didn't fire girls like me no matter how explicitly we described alligator shears to customers in want of castration.
Fairly certain I'd ensured the Ram's owner wouldn't make the same mistake a third time, I stopped by The Holler on the way home to pick up my mom's tips from the night before.
"How's trouble?" My mom's boss was named Trick. He had five children, eighteen grandchildren, and three visible scars from breaking up bar fights — possibly more under his ratty white T-shirt.
He'd greeted me the exact same way every time he'd seen me since I was four.
"I'm fine, thanks for asking," I said.
"Here for your mom's tips?" That question came from Trick's oldest grandson, who was restocking the liquor behind the bar. This was a family business in a family town. The entire population was just over eight thousand. You couldn't throw a rock without it bouncing off three people who were related to each other.
And then there was my mom — and me.
"Here for tips," I confirmed. My mom wasn't exactly known for her financial acumen or the steadfastness with which she made it home after a late shift. I'd been balancing our household budget since I was nine — around the same time that I'd developed sequential interests in lock picking, the Westminster Dog Show, and fixing the perfect martini.
"Here you go, sweetheart." Trick handed me an envelope that was thicker than I'd expected. "Don't blow it all in one place."
I snorted. The money would go to rent and food. I wasn't exactly the type to party. I might, in fact, have had a bit of a reputation for being antisocial.
See also: my willingness to threaten castration.
Before Trick could issue an invitation for me to join the whole family at his daughter-in-law's house for dinner, I made my excuses and ducked out of the bar. Home sweet home was only two blocks over and one block up. Technically, our house was a one-bedroom, but we'd walled off two-thirds of the living room with dollar-store shower curtains when I was nine.
"Mom?" I called out as I stepped over the threshold. There was an element of ritual to calling her name, even when she wasn't home. Even if she was on a bender — or if she'd fallen for a new man, experienced another religious conversion, or developed a deep-seated need to commune with her better angels under the watchful eyes of a roadside psychic.
I'd come by my habit of hopping from one interest to the next honestly, even if her restlessness was less focused and a little more self-destructive than my own.
Almost on cue, my cell phone rang. I answered.
"Baby, you will not believe what happened last night." My mom never bothered with salutations.
"Are you still in the continental United States, are you in need of bail money, and do I have a new daddy?"
My mom laughed. "You're my everything. You know that, right?"
"I know that we're almost out of milk," I replied, removing the carton from the fridge and taking a swig. "And I know that someone was an excellent tipper last night."
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. I'd guessed correctly this time. It was a guy, and she'd met him at The Holler the night before.
"You'll be okay, won't you?" she asked softly. "Just for a few days?"
I was a big believer in absolute honesty: say what you mean, mean what you say, and don't ask a question if you don't want to know the answer.
But it was different with my mom.
"I reserve the right to assess the symmetry of his features and the cheesiness of his pickup lines when you get back."
"Sawyer." My mom was serious — or at least as serious as she got.
"I'll be fine," I said. "I always am."
She was quiet for several seconds. Ellie Taft was many things, but above all, she was someone who'd tried as hard as she could for as long as she could — for me.
"Sawyer," she said quietly. "I love you."
I knew my line, had known it since my brief obsession with the most quotable movie lines of all time when I was five. "I know."
I hung up the phone before she could. I was halfway to finishing off the milk when the front door — in desperate need of both WD-40 and a new lock — creaked open. I turned toward the sound, running the algorithm to determine who might be dropping by unannounced.
Doris from next door lost her cat an average of 1.2 times per week.
Big Jim and Trick had matching habits of checking up on me, like they couldn't remember I was eighteen, not eight.
The guy with the Dodge Ram. He could have followed me. That wasn't a thought so much as instinct. My hand hovered over the knife drawer as a figure stepped into the house.
"I do hope your mother buys Wüsthof," the intruder commented, observing the position of my hand. "Wüsthof knives are just so much sharper than generic."
I blinked, but when my eyes opened again, the woman was still standing there, coiffed within an inch of her life and besuited in a blue silk jacket and matching skirt that made me wonder if she'd mistaken our decades-old house for a charitable luncheon. The stranger said nothing to indicate why she'd let herself in or how she could justify sounding more dismayed at the idea of my mom having purchased off-brand knives than the prospect that I might be preparing to draw one.
"You favor your mother," she commented.
I wasn't sure how she expected me to reply to that statement, so I went with my gut. "You look like a bichon frise."
It's a breed of dog that looks like a very small, very sturdy powder puff. Since absolute honesty didn't require that I say every thought that crossed my mind, I opted for a modified truth. "You look like your haircut cost more than my car."
The woman — I put her age in her early sixties — tilted her head slightly to one side. "Is that a compliment or an insult?" She had a Southern accent — less twang and more drawl than my own. Com-pluh-mehnt or anin-suhlt?
"That depends on your perspective more than mine."
She smiled slightly, like I'd said something just darling, but not actually amusing. "Your name is Sawyer." After informing me of that fact, she paused. "You don't know who I am, do you?" Clearly, that was a rhetorical question, because she didn't wait for a reply.
"Why don't I spare us the dramatics?" Her smile broadened, warm in the way that a shower is warm, right before someone flushes the toilet.
"My name," she continued in a tone to match the smile, "is Lillian Taft. I'm your maternal grandmother."
My grandmother, I thought, trying to process the situation, looks like a bichon frise.
"Your mother and I had a bit of a falling-out before you were born." Lillian was apparently the kind of person who would have referred to a Category 5 hurricane as a bit of a drizzle. "I think it's high time to put that bit of history to rest, don't you?"
I was one rhetorical question away from going for the knife drawer again, so I attempted to cut to the chase. "You didn't come here looking for my mother."
"You don't miss much, Miss Sawyer." Lillian's voice was soft and feminine. I got the feeling she didn't miss much, either. "I'd like to make you an offer."
An offer? I was suddenly reminded of who I was dealing with here. Lillian Taft wasn't a powder puff. She was the merciless, dictatorial matriarch who'd kicked my pregnant mother out of her house at the ripe old age of seventeen.
I stalked to the front door and retrieved the Post-it I'd placed next to the doorbell when our house had been hit with door-to-door evangelists two weeks in a row. I turned and offered the handwritten notice to the woman who'd raised my mother. Her perfectly manicured fingertips plucked the Post-it from my grasp.
"'No soliciting,'" my grandmother read.
"Except for Girl Scout cookies," I added helpfully. I'd gotten kicked out of the local Scout troop during my morbid true-crime and facts-about-autopsies phase, but I still had a weakness for Thin Mints.
Lillian pursed her lips and amended her previous statement.
"'No soliciting except for Girl Scout cookies.'"
I saw the precise moment that she registered what I was saying: I wasn't interested in her offer. Whatever she was selling, I wasn't buying.
An instant later, it was like I'd said nothing at all. "I'll be frank, Sawyer," she said, showing a kind of candy-coated steel I'd never seen in my mom. "Your mother chose this path. You didn't." She pressed her lips together, just for a moment. "I happen to think you deserve more."
"More than off-brand knives and drinking straight from the carton?" I shot back. Two could play the rhetorical-question game.
Unfortunately, the great Lillian Taft had apparently never met a rhetorical question she was not fully capable of answering. "More than a GED, a career path with no hope of advancement, and a mother who's less responsible now than she was at sixteen."
Were she not an aging Southern belle with a reputation to uphold, my grandmother might have followed that statement by throwing her hands into touchdown position and declaring, "Burn!" Instead, she laid a hand over her heart. "You deserve opportunities you'll never have here."
The people in this town were good people. This was a good place. But it wasn't my place. Even in the best of times, part of me had always felt like I was just passing through.
A muscle in my throat tightened. "You don't know me."
That got a pause out of her — and not a calculated one. "I could," she replied finally. "I could know you. And you could find yourself in the position to attend any college of your choosing and graduate debt-free."CHAPTER 2
There was a contract. An honest-to-God, written-in-legalese, sign-on-the-dotted-line contract.
Lillian waved away the question. "Let's not get bogged down in the details."
"Of course not," I said, thumbing through the nine-page appendix. "Why would I go to the trouble of reading the terms before I sell you my soul?"
"The contract is for your protection," my grandmother insisted.
"Otherwise, what's to keep me from reneging on my end of the deal once yours is complete?"
"A sense of honor and any desire whatsoever for an ongoing relationship?" I suggested.
Lillian arched an eyebrow. "Are you willing to bet your college education on my honor?"
I knew plenty of people who'd gone to college. I also knew a lot of people who hadn't.
I read the contract. I wasn't even sure why. I was not going to move in with her for an entire year. I was not going to walk away from my home, my life, my mother for —
"Five hundred thousand dollars?" I may have punctuated that amount with an expletive or two.
"Have you been listening to rap music?" my grandmother demanded.
"You said you'd pay for college." I tore my gaze from the contract.
Even reading it made me feel like I'd just let the guy with the Dodge Ram tuck a couple of ones into my bikini. "You didn't say anything about handing me a check for half a million dollars."
"It won't be a check," my grandmother said, as if that was the real issue here. "It will be a trust. College, graduate school, living expenses, study abroad, transportation, tutors — these things add up."
"Say it," I told her, unable to believe that anyone could shrug off that amount of money. "Say that you're offering me five hundred thousand dollars to live with you for a year."
"Money isn't something we talk about, Sawyer. It's something we have."
I stared at her, waiting for the punch line.
There was no punch line.
"You came here expecting me to say yes." I didn't phrase that sentence as a question, because it wasn't one.
"I suppose that I did," Lillian allowed.
I wanted her to actually say that she'd assumed that I could be bought. I wanted to hear her admit that she thought so little of me — and so little of my mom — that there had been no doubt in her mind that I'd jump at the chance to take her devil of a deal.
"I suppose," Lillian said finally, "that you remind me a bit of myself. And were I in your position, sweet girl ..." She laid a hand on my cheek. "I would surely jump at the chance to identify and locate my biological father."CHAPTER 3
My mom — in between alternating bouts of pretending that I'd been immaculately conceived, cursing the male of the species, and getting tipsy and nostalgic about her first time — had told me exactly three things about my mystery father.
She'd only slept with him once.
He hated fish.
He wasn't looking for a scandal.
And that was it. When I was eleven, I'd found a picture she'd hidden away, a portrait of twenty-four teenage boys in long-tailed tuxedos, standing beneath a marble arch.
The caption had been embossed onto the picture in silver script.
The year — and several of the faces — had been scratched out.
Money isn't something we talk about, I thought hours after Lillian had left. I mentally mimicked her tone as I continued. And the fact that the man who knocked your mother up is almost certainly a scion of high society isn't something I'll come right out and say, but ...
I picked the contract up again. This time, I read it from start to finish. Lillian had conveniently forgotten to mention some of the terms.
Like the fact that she would choose my wardrobe.
Like the mandatory manicure I'd have once a week.
Like the way she expected me to attend private school alongside my cousins.
I hadn't even realized I had cousins. Trick's grandkids had cousins. Half of the members of my elementary school Girl Scout troop had cousins in that troop. But me?
I had an encyclopedia of medieval torture techniques.
Pushing myself to finish the contract, I arrived at the icing on the cake. I agree to participate in the annual Symphony Ball and all Symphony Deb events leading up to my presentation to society next spring.
Deb. As in debutante.
Half a million dollars wasn't enough.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Little White Lies"
Copyright © 2018 Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Excerpted by permission of Disney Book Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When I first heard about this one, I was a bit iffy. A book about debutantes, mystery, and Southern belles and gentlemen doesn't seem like a "me" thing, so I wasn't exactly chomping on the bit about it. But then I realized it was by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and all those worries went away. It doesn't matter what it is, any mystery by Barnes I'll give a shot. Just as Sawyer gets off work something she least expects happens.... Her grandmother comes out of nowhere and offers her 6 figures to come and live with her and be a debutante. She expects the big dresses and tradition, but not the family and acceptance that comes with it. She really doesn't expect the friends and scandals they brought with them. Its a whirlwind of debutante balls, Southern belles and gentlemen, and southern charm mixed with some mystery and thrills to make a story to put the reader on the edge of their seat. This isn't something I thought I would really enjoy, but once I started reading it and fell into Barnes' familiar storytelling, I couldn't stop. Her writing style can always pull me in. The humor and wit and Sawyer's sarcastic nature was my absolute favorite part. Barnes is a master storyteller and this one was no different. She told it alot differently than her other stories that I've read, but for this one it worked. And it worked really well. The story goes back and forth between a couple hours before the debutante ball (time does a countdown to the debutante ball over those chapters) and when Sawyer first got to her grandmother's world. It sounds like it might be confusing, but once you get to reading it, you start to understand the timeline more. And for a book that had so many characters, it seems as if it's hard to have all of them be so well developed. Not for Barnes. I really enjoyed every character that she introduced and everything they brought to the story. Sadie-Grace had to be my favorite and I can only hope that the next book is gives us a little more back story or detail about her. Lily was interesting to learn about as well, with everything that is revealed in the end of the book, it will be interesting to see how things end up in the next book. As for the setting, I LOVED the Southern atmosphere in this one. My mom was a debutante and she told me all her stories and we're from the South, so I kind of had a feel for it. I've always felt like they would be in a world all their own and Barnes really portrayed that. The twists and turns were my absolute favorite part of this book though. No matter what it seemed like I knew, I didn't. It got REALLY messed up in the end. As things started clicking into place and secrets came out, this story got really weird lol It was completely different than what I was expecting and I really enjoyed that. As much as I read, thrillers aren't really a surprise for me anymore, but this one was and it made it 90% more enjoyable than the others. The only thing I didn't care for was the ending. For something they had been working on for the entire book, it was a little non-existent in the end. It was talked about, but I wish Barnes had given us something from that point of view instead of just skimming over it. It would have been nice to get in on all the secrets. Although I still haven't given up on campaigning for more of her Fixer series, (see what I did there? lol) I will definitely be wanting more of this series as well. I already have so many questions and I can't wai
Little White Lies is a little snarky, a little mystery, but a lot about warm friendships and complicated family relationships. Sawyer accepts a deal from her grandmother to become a debutante in exchange for college tuition support, with a side of finding out who her biological father is. All she has is a photo of the season her mother debuted, and a food preference to go on. But soon she realizes that discovering the identity may not be as easy as she thought, as this society is determined to keep its secrets. Sawyer’s personality is all sass and blunt, which rubs some people the wrong way. She is boyish, and has a little ‘not like other girls’ complex but her derision towards the other debutantes also is along the lines of ‘WTF rich people?’. When she saves her cousin from her bully, it forms a little clutch of girls who have some similar motives. Their group slowly grows, in between fittings, and functions, and soon they are digging into their town’s secrets, particularly who got away with what. Sawyer’s search takes her to some unpleasant revelations, as well as some warming ones. She realizes her mother’s family are the pit of snakes she was led to believe and that maybe only relying on her mother’s word led her to be estranged from them, too. She has to continuously reevaluate the complicated mother-daughter relationships in her family with respect to these revelations, and also the way these relationships can play out in different families. The vibe of the book doesn’t really come across as mystery, actually. It opens on a comical scene where a police officer is preparing for the headache of dealing with four teen girls who seem like debutantes, sitting in his jail cell, and no one knows why they were arrested. And while the main story is playing out on Sawyer’s life from the time her grandmother finds her, to this opening scene, it is cut with that police station scene, and we get glimpses and clues of what happened to have them end up there. That part was played out so well – I didn’t expect THAT to come about from the first half of the book. I would put it more as a comedy-mystery in the theme of something like Gallagher Girls. Overall, an engaging and entertaining mystery, but not really dark.
My rating: 4.5 Stars! The twenty-first century still has debutante balls? Do they still make white gloves? For $500,000, street-savvy Sawyer is about to find out about more than which fork to use when her long-lost grandmother, matriarch of a wealthy southern family makes her an offer she cannot refuse. Then again, Sawyer isn’t one to back down from a challenge, ever. Besides, it will give her the golden opportunity to find out who her father really is and why her mother left her grand estate for a rundown apartment on the other side of the tracks. What dirty little secrets hide behind the oh-so-proper gentile society her mother ran from? Are these debutantes as innocent as they seem? Sawyer is about to school them all in the reality of life and they are about to school her in the art of deception. Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s LITTLE WHITE LIES is a cleverly devious, charmingly witty young adult mystery about truth, lies, family and the fact that even those white gloves can get a little dirty! I fell in love with Sawyer’s quick wit, keen sense of survival and her ability not to lose herself in the glitz, glamor and facades of the upper crust! Her nemesis may have gone one threat too far and just maybe I wanted a couple of things clarified, but all in all, I loved it. Quirky, chaotic and filled with surprises, this is one heck of a twisted ride! I received a complimentary ARC edition from Disney Book Group!
I purchased this book oon a whim and it was much better than expected. I would love to read a sequel !
** Thank you to NetGalley and to Freeform for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review** Drama, debutantes, estranged families, scandals, oh my! Plot: Little White Lies is about an 18-year-old girl named Sawyer. Sawyer has lived her whole life in a small-town with a flighty mother. In all honesty, Sawyer is the parent in her relationship with her mom. Her mom had her when she was only 17 years old--and it seems her mother is stuck acting that age. One day, when Sawyer is home alone her grandmother, whom she has never met, shows up with a proposition in hand. If Sawyer lives with her grandmother for nine months and participates in this year’s debutante season, then Sawyer will get 500,000 dollars for college. Naturally, she signs on the dotted line. However, Sawyer’s estranged family is nothing like she imagined. Soon, she starts to care for them but everyone isn’t as they appear. Everyone she meets has a secret and a scandal in tow. The only scandal Sawyer is interested in is the one concerning her conception 18 years ago. Will Sawyer be able to discern which mystery man from her mom’s past is her father? Thoughts: It took a while for me to start enjoying this book. It wasn’t until around the 50% mark that I became a tad bit invested. It was hard for me to connect with the characters as there is little to no character development throughout the novel. Barnes relies solely on the mystery element of the book to entice and maintain the reader’s attention. If you are like me, then that means you skim pages until you find a part of the book that seems interesting. There was a good twist at the end of the book, but it was executed poorly. The author addresses and explains the twist in under 10 pages, then she promptly ends the book. I’ve heard there may be a sequel. I won’t be reading it. All in all, this book was pretty average. It didn’t bring anything new to the table nor did it captivate me. There were a few quotes that I particularly liked such as, “People were fundamentally predictable. If you stopped expecting them to surprise you, they couldn’t disappoint.”. I also liked this quote, “Maybe, not caring is just what ordinary people see when they can’t process what it looks like when someone cares too damn much.”
As a southern reader, I am always incredibly wary of the whole “Southern Debutante” theme in books, but I loved the author’s previous series and was excited to see her whole take on southern society. Sawyer Taft is not a girly woman. She’s a mechanic who only relies on herself. She’s sassy and takes no crap. Then her grandmother comes in with promises of funding her college tuition and bankrolling her life. With a catch. She has to spend nearly a year with her and become a debutante. She still resists, until the grandmother lays the hook. She can also find out who her father is. Since her mom was a teenager when she got pregnant and won’t talk about him, Sawyer can’t turn down the offer. She needs to know. But once things really start to get moving, her father isn’t the only mystery that needs solving. There are a lot of characters, and I got a bit mixed up between all of them, but it didn’t stop me from continuing to read because I had to know how this thing was going to end. The ending left A LOT to be desired, but I have heard rumors of a sequel, so that is probably why.
What do you get if you combine Mamma Mia with The Princess Diaries and Pretty Little Liars? Answer: a really great time. LITTLE WHITE LIES was a laugh-out-loud Southern twist on a thriller premise. I went in expecting something a bit more like Barnes' THE NATURALS series (which is fantastic, by the way) but this wasn't as scary or cult-like as that series. Don't take that as a lack of suspenseful writing and high stakes, however. Nothing makes me more scared than a proper lady in pristine white gloves stealing millions of dollars from the person of authority she was shaking hands with. LITTLE WHITE LIES follows a girl on a quest to fulfill her grandmother's wishes of being a debutante for nine months, while sleuthing to discover who her baby daddy is and also the source of her cousin's blackmailing. This book dives into the rich vs poor, family vs reputation discussions that crop up often in YA, but adds in Southern charm and passive aggression like no other. A patchwork of mysteries, questionable decisions, and several cute boys later, you find yourself wrapped in up in the mystery, gripping the book so hard you get marks on your palms from the corners. That suspense you felt the first time you watched Mamma Mia and wanted to know which of the eligible men was Sophie's father? Or the iconic ugly duckling transformation Anne Hathaway undertakes to become the princess she truly is? The nail-biting suspense of having juicy secrets and knowing that the biggest gossip in the neighborhood knows them too? It's all in these pages. While LITTLE WHITE LIES does have some interesting characters with believable motives and the sharpest dialogue I've read in a while, when I wasn't in stitches from our narrator's wit and love for medieval forms of torture I was wishing there was a family tree. This book contains quite a large cast of characters, with most being extended family. Besides the ones who aren't. But then how do you keep them straight when it's time to decide who you ship together? I hope the finished copy has an easier way to track these characters better. I also felt like this book didn't contain the unique qualities THE NATURALS does, making it a little less memorable in my mind. It's a solid four stars, and I'm excited to read more of these characters because you haven't read a morally grey character until you've read this book (or any of VE Schwab's). I also loved the alternating timelines. There are short, out of context scenes from the present time scattered throughout, and the other chapters slowly and chronologically leading up to the present. I could see it as a standalone, but I want a more fleshed-out arc for these characters, plus there was a small plotline left dangling there at the end. Not a cliffhanger, but a nudge into a sequel. Count me in.