Monday, 16 December 2013

Review: Secret Lies by Amy Dunne

Author: Amy Dunne Website
Published: 16 December 2013 (Bold Stroke Books)
Format: Kindle e-book (ARC)
Pages: 264
Buy the paperback: Amazon|BookDepository

Source: Received free copy from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Would you face your biggest fear, to save the one you love?

Nicola Jackson escapes from her abuser, only to realize she has no one to turn to and nowhere to go. In a twist of fate, she accidentally bumps into Jenny O’Connor, the most popular girl at school. They strike up an unlikely friendship. As their trust in each other develops, they share their darkest secrets, and their relationship blossoms into a secret romance.

Jenny loves Nicola, but she is fearful that if their secret relationship is discovered, she might lose her family, friends, and her seemingly perfect life.
Nicola confronts her abuser and blackmails him to leave for good, but things go terrifyingly wrong. Jenny is left with a life-changing dilemma: should she face her fear and accept who she is, or let Nicola take the blame and pretend their relationship never happened? 

My Review:
When the author approached me about reviewing this book I was really excited by the sound of it, and I am always on the lookout for more LBGTQ YA fiction. Secret Lies follows teenagers Jenny and Nicola who develop a close relationship after Nicola moves in with Jenny to escape her mother's abusive boyfriend.

Firstly this book is an intense read. The book deals with self-harm, alcohol and drugs, sex, physical and psychological abuse. Whilst it's not a light and fluffy read I think the author has done an incredible job at tackling these difficult topics. I could really sympathise with Jenny's battle with self-harm and seeing her in therapy was a great way to get inside her head and understand what she's thinking. Nicola's home situation was just heart-breaking and had me incredibly emotional throughout the book. She's been through some much and I really came to fear for her.

Whilst Secret Lies deals with all these traumas, the central relationship is something that is an incredibly positive experience for both girls and that really help lift the mood. I absolutely adored their relationship and the way it develops. They have this amazing chemistry but you get the slow burn as they come to terms with their feelings for each other. There are a few obstacles with Jenny coming from a very catholic family and neither girl having any experience but those hurdles just made you root for them even more. I was jumping up and down when they finally get together.

Both the girls are at a time in their life where they're discovering their sexuality and I liked how you got to explore those fears they have. There's a really touching scene where Nicola starts Googling everything she can about lesbianism and orders books and DVDs just to reach out and find out more about who she is. It makes you realise why books like Secret Lies are so important because this is the reality for so many teens yet it's vastly underrepresented. I hope this book will reach a wide range of audiences because it's a wonderful story, regardless of the sex of the two main characters.

As well as the central relationship, Secret Lies sums up pretty well what it's like to be a teenager living with peer pressure and stress. Jenny particularly goes through a lot of that, feeling the pressure to live up to her older sister's example and trying to live up to this reputation she's developed at school for being experienced and confident with boys, despite the fact she's not at all comfortable with it. The title also brings into play the sneaking around you do at that age and how hiding things about yourself for fear of the repercussions can be a reality.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I think the only thing that let it down for me was that the writing was a bit over-descriptive. I would find myself skimming large chunks of texts just to get past what colour everything was and find the action. The book alternated from Nicola and Jenny's POV which was generally effective, but sometimes I found the voices merging and would have to double check whose perspective I was reading from. I managed to stay engaged with the story, though, and the plot and drama sucked me in enough to put those things aside. Secret Lies is definitely a book I'll be recommending in future for those looking for a really good love story to root for.

Rating: 4*
Books like this: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle

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