Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Book Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves
Author: Robin Talley
Publish Date: September 30th, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: YA Historical
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: AmazonThe Book Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Harlequin Teen via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Review:
“I don’t think right and wrong is always that simple.”

This book made me feel all the things. Anger, sadness, happiness, hope, despair and so many other emotions, it’s hard to keep it all straight. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to Sarah Dunbar, her sister Ruth and 8 other “colored” students who are attempting to be the first colored students to integrate into Jefferson High. 

I had studied this time period in college history classes so I was worried it wouldn’t feel authentic. But it did. Everything that Sarah, Ruth, Yvonne, Chuck, Paulie & Ennis went through was heartbreaking and before I had even gotten a quarter of the way through it, I had sobbed out loud, multiple times, scaring my cat.

Not only is Sarah dealing with integrating at a new, all-white school, she’s also dealing with sinful thoughts about girls.

“I used to think the wrong things all the time. Before I knew they were wrong.” -Sarah-

At this time in history, being LGBT was considered “wrong” and “sinful” and “not normal” Sarah struggled with knowing that the way she felt about girls was considered wrong by society & by God. She’s so focused on pleasing her parents and being a good girl and not disappointing them, that she doesn’t take the time for herself to think about what she wants and what she believes.

“I don’t talk back and I don’t ask questions. That’s what good daughters do. Being good means being invisible.” -Sarah-

I know I would have failed big time in this time in history. I get that it was a totally different time in our history, but wow, things have definitely changed at least in some ways.

“It isn’t right for girls to talk about being smart around boys.” -Sarah-

This line absolutely infuriated me. Again, I know that this was a very different time in our history where girls were expected to shut up, not question their father or their husband and pop out babies. I was absolutely livid at reading this. Especially knowing that Sarah was smart. She was very smart, yet she couldn’t talk about that around boys.

“Everyone is counting on me. I can’t be a failure.” -Sarah-

That seems like a lot of pressure on a teenager and I was, once again, infuriated on Sarah’s behalf. She was so concerned about not failing anyone and I was honestly worried for her. What would happen if she did fail? Would she be able to deal with the disappointment and move on?

Linda had it all. She was popular, worry free and seemingly happy. Her father was well known in the community and he was also very well respected. But Linda’s hiding a secret, well a couple of secrets. Both of which she knows she cannot leak out or it would damage her family’s reputation.

Since she was a small child, she’s obediently listened to her father and willingly parroted all his beliefs to her friends. She agrees with everything her father says about the dangers of Negroes and how the end of segregation is going to ruin America. But everything changes when she meets Sarah.

“It didn’t seem right that she had to be so scared just because she was a Negro. She couldn’t help the color of her skin.” -Linda-

Linda waffled on her beliefs a lot and while I was continuously frustrated by her, I understood her, at least a little bit. All her life her father had said bad things about Negroes and she was so desperate to get his approval that she agreed with him without doing any of her own thinking on the subject. Meeting Sarah was exactly what Linda needed in order to realize that maybe these people were okay. Maybe they weren’t lazy, uneducated slobs like her Daddy always said they were.

Linda was also dating a much older boy in the hopes that they would get married after graduation and she could move out of her father’s home and start popping out babies with Jack. She honestly didn’t think there were any other choices. At that time, marriage and babies were really the only choice for most women.

“Jack is all I need.” -Linda-

That quote frustrated me, but again I know why she felt like that. She wanted to get away from her awful father and she truly believed that Jack was all she needed because she wanted to marry him and leave home. She was convinced that a life with Jack was all she wanted and needed.

It’s Sarah who tries to get Linda to figure out on her own what she believes and to stop taking everything her father says as gospel. Sarah is not afraid to call Linda out on it either. That I loved.These two had so many passionate discussions on what was right and what was wrong. That was the basis of many of their conversations early on which I thought was awesome.

I wish there had been more in the way of romance. I was definitely excited to see the romance unfold and I was disappointed that we really didn’t get a lot of it. Also, at about 65% of the way through, it had slowed down and it was a bit boring for awhile. Thankfully it picked back up. I did enjoy this book a lot, more than I expected to actually and I’m really glad I took a chance on this book. I’m giving it 4 stars.

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