My rating: 1 of 5 stars
For my review of “One Tiny Lie” – I’m not going to do much reflection and just cut to the chase, and hopefully without too many spoilers (though honestly, some of the turns of events are not that hard to figure out if you’ve read enough New Adult to see what elements are glorified).
Some might say that, considering what I rated the previous novel, this was a forgone reaction to a sequel of a novel I did not like, where I should’ve expected to see things coming along. But I have to refute that with some expansions.
I’m splitting this review up into two sections – the first 60% and the last 40% of the novel.
The first 60%, despite some qualms over things I saw – I was actually enjoying the novel. I would’ve probably given it a solid 3 stars for the portrayal of Livie’s college experiences and the developing relationships, albeit some humorous, cliched anecdotes that are pretty typical of teen comedies, like the film “Can’t Hardly Wait”. It was probably the first time in a New Adult novel, I’ve seen, that a college environment – even with how loosely drawn it was of Princeton – was depicted with any kind of realistic terms for a Freshman trying to adjust and going through some absolutely mortifying situations (such as the drunken night one doesn’t remember and ends up with a tattoo alongside a potential love interest being naked – maybe). I have to give it that much. Not only that, Livie’s voice in the beginning is actually cool. She’s funny, likable, even calls out her big sister Kacey (who was the MC to the previous novel) on things that are reminiscent of the maturity she had from the previous novel.
I think anyone who reads the synopsis of this novel can tell that this is a story of Livie’s respective fall from grace, from the “perfection” that exists in her mind and what everyone expects her to be to the reality of her coming to terms for what she really wants. That’s a noble thing, I’m not knocking that at all and actually think that’s a brilliant thing to cover. She’s at the top of her game entering her freshman year, working hard to suit the expectations of her deceased father, who, Livie notes at the beginning of the novel, said “Make me proud.” I think those of you who have read “Ten Tiny Breaths” know what happened with Kacey and Livie’s family, so I’m not going to recap on that, but given the context of where this novel started off, I expected something of a light to dark rollercoaster, but treated with realism.
I did have to suspend my disbelief on a few things, including the over the top therapist (Dr. Stayner, who actually struck me as more of a caricature representation of things that could’ve been shown with Livie coming to terms on her own. He was just as much of an intrusive presence in this novel as he was the former. He was one of the things that prevented me from enjoying the first part of the novel as much as I could’ve) and the fact that Livie’s affections are torn between the usual good guy (Connor) versus the bad boy (Ashton). It’s a typical set up for the love interest scenario, but I figured I could deal with that. Many love stories use the formula, it’s a matter of how one uses them and if it comes across where we can root for the character and her decision, okay.
Yet, the “One Tiny Lie” committed by Livie in measures ended up being more like 100 different lies balled into one with manipulations to match. While this could’ve been a chance for Livie to say “Okay, this is not who I am or who I wish to become, I’ve been lying to myself all this time and this is where it got me” and having her fall from grace and own up to the things she did wrong – this novel did no such thing.
It was, unfortunately, all about the chosen love story, which was probably a forgone conclusion even before the story really got off the ground.
The last 40% of the novel (maybe even slightly before that point from clues in the set up) was an utter mess of melodrama. Not to mention familiar to cliches of New Adult (maybe even to contemp YA and adult romance) and some of the problematic things that others, including myself, have pointed out which contribute to the lack of diversity in this particular age group.
Here’s a question I pose to anyone who may come across this review, whether they may agree or disagree with the way that I view this novel: how is it right to vilify an entire group – a minority whether on racial, gender, sexual orientation, sexual preference or other distinctions – in order to basically say “This is not something that defines me or what I want”? One may say that slut and virgin shaming exist in real life and that this is fiction – okay, but where is the point when it becomes a reflection of reality or glorifying a problematic ideal in our society by putting it to be humored or an encompassing definition that’s supposed to represent a norm? That the idea of being a virgin is “bad”, while losing it and doing so at a certain stage in life is “good”, when the reality is that people exist on variant scales and have different comfort zones and choices with that? How is it okay to say that cheating on a lover when it’s *true love* is a positive thing while ignoring the repercussions it brings to all who may be affected by it? When is it a positive thing to say something like this:
“Connor is feeling more wrong by the minute. He looks perfect on the outside—smart, sweet, good-looking, charming. He does cute things like send me flowers and call me throughout the day to say hello. He’s never pushed me into sex or anything aside from kissing, which, now that I think about it, is just plain weird for a college guy. Maybe he’s gay and I’m the perfect cover for his parents?Either way, it worked out well, because I’ve never had the urge to go farther with him. That in itself should have been a red flag for me.”
…and not recognize every single bit of what’s wrong with it in real context, down to the groups it offends and the behaviors it vilifies? For justification, even for humor?
I don’t understand how that’s right or acceptable. I really don’t. I think there are ways to convey personal growth in a story without talking down the individual aspects that make us differ from one another. I think being able to recognize that would’ve made this a much stronger story that could resonate – with all audiences picking this up – without qualms, rather than marginalizing those who may fall in the affronted groups. It’s a lesson any writer can take home with them at the end of the day.
“One Tiny Lie” actually progresses to the point where, in the scheme of events, it does come across as one big release of conflict after conflict without a true coming to terms, in order for the professed “couple” (because it was never really a love triangle anyway) to bond. And it’s complete with both a confession of difficult circumstances for both the hero and heroine that aren’t really foreshadowed or given any due weight for the gravity that they have in themselves, but rather for the promotion of the formulaic conflict vehicle. Long story short, it’s the same problems that peppered the last, and with a heroine who seemed to have a role that wasn’t defined by that in the previous novel. Same script, different cast.
In sum, I wish I could’ve liked this novel more, but I couldn’t. I found it quite problematic and despite initial measures where it had my interest, it lost me – it dropped the ball for things it could’ve shown in better context, and I can’t give it a recommendation. Maybe in time, I’ll find a novel by the author that clicks with me, but not when it has this many problems contained within it.
Overall score: 1/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Atria Books.