My first thought about Seven Ways We Lie (ABRAMS Kids/Amulet Books, March 2016) is that its author, Riley Redgate, has one of the all-time great names. I wish I was called Riley Redgate. Although, if I was, I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing novels; I’d be a private detective, because I can really see RILEY REDGATE INVESTIGATIONS etched in gold in a glass door.
The actual Riley Redgate, presumably unaware of the fact that her name has such great private detective potential, has written a book called Seven Ways We Lie. It is about seven high school students with interconnecting lives, and a standard amount of teen drama. Ostensibly, each character represents one of the seven deadly sins. More on this later.
The book is very easy to read, with convincing teen dialogue – the author information at the end of the book informs me that Riley Redgate (seriously, that name!) is disturbingly young, so writing realistic dialogue with the requisite amount of “like” involved probably wasn’t too much of an issue. Of the seven narrators, some are more appealing than others; I enjoyed how smart and snarky Olivia was, and Lucas was also good company. My favourite was Matt; it may be a bit of a cliché that the supposed stoner has hidden depths, but his were worth exploring.
You know what they say. “Three things last forever: faith, hope and spite. And the greatest of these is spite.”
The whole seven-narrators thing does have its problems though. Some characters get more airtime than others; Redgate doesn’t slavishly stick to an order in who gets to speak, which is a good plan. I just found that, particularly at the beginning, I had forgotten who everyone was by the time they returned as narrator; some of the characters, like Valentine and Matt, have clear and distinct voices, and Juniper’s sections are completely different, but I’m not confident I could have randomly selected a page and identified the speaker. I understand that the seven narrators are key to the seven deadly sins motif, but I didn’t think this was particularly clear; if I hadn’t seen the cover, I definitely wouldn’t have realised this was a part of the story. It’s a really good conceit to work from, but not made explicit enough. If I’m going to be picky (and it appears that I am), I also wasn’t overly fond of the teacher-pupil relationship storyline. As a teacher myself, I found it rather silly; seriously, what teacher moves to a new town and starts chatting up teenagers? How could that possibly end well?
In terms of diversity – such a buzzword in YA at the moment – Seven Ways We Lie features a pansexual character as well as one who is possibly asexual; I’ve seen a lot of chat about the need for more representation of the full LGBTQIA spectrum recently, and Seven Ways We Lie is a good inclusion in these conversations.
Overall, Seven Ways We Lie is an enjoyable and original novel, with plenty of humour as well as drama, and will appeal to readers who are more capable of keeping track of multiple narrators than I am.