Initial reaction: Well, at least I can say this was better than “Black Ice”, but not by much. Oy vey. I’ll talk about this one when I give myself enough time to collect my thoughts. But suffice to say, Stella was a character who wore on my patience one too many times, and while there were moments where she felt realistically like a teenager caught in extreme (and unfortunate) circumstances, she was so judgmental and presumptuous that it made her very difficult to follow. I don’t ask to like every heroine (heck, I read my fair share of flawed heroes and heroines) that I read about, but this was just messed up in places and as per usual – it threw me out of what otherwise could’ve been an engaging narrative.
I’ll admit I’m torn on my reflections on “Dangerous Lies” (hence why I waited so long to reflect on it. Even then I’m still torn). Admittedly, I want to give Becca Fitzpatrick credit for this book. I really do – it’s a decent thriller for premise at least and I’ll admit I read through this rather compulsively (barring the times it threw me out of the story for Stella’s prejudiced commentary). There were even times I could understand why Stella was as bitter as she was. When you’re a teenager who has their whole life ripped away from them – mother strung out on drugs, father wants nothing to do with you, you’re told to forget about your boyfriend, friends and high school, AND your life is in danger because you were the key witness to a crime – that…is far beyond the point of unfortunate. Seriously.
But even understanding that didn’t make me forgive how judgmental she was through the entire book with rampant misogynistic comments and put downs from the get go (even to a young woman who was pregnant). It threw me out of the story one too many times and detracted from the overarching narrative. This isn’t even a new thing for Fitzpatrick’s narratives on any level, from everything I’ve read from her thus far. I don’t expect a character to be perfect, and anti-heroes/heroines need their stories told too – that’s not the issue at all. Rather, it’s the fact I see the same stereotypes, same prejudices, same problems in every single narrative that Fitzpatrick has written thus far, and it’s annoying as crap to me. Same slut shaming and rampant girl-girl put downs, same stereotypes when it comes to characters of different nationalities or racial groups. Same…issues and it feels like a paint by numbers template to me at this point. *sighs* I feel like this could’ve been as strong of a narrative, if not stronger, if it didn’t have all those narrative judgmental tangents thrown in (and the narrative felt longer for it). Not only are they offensive in themselves, they just feel like a distraction from the overarching story, which is decent in theory for a thriller/suspense revolving around a displaced teen. Lauren Oliver, Courtney Summers, Megan Abbott are among a few names I could mention who have managed to make bad girls/anti-heroines worth following without reiterating and championing harmful stereotypes that divert the focus from the overarching narrative.
Rant aside, “Dangerous Lies” sees Stella relocating to another household in a small town, where she’s kept under the supervision of Carmina (who, considering all the stuff Stella does and says against her, is very accommodating and fair. Stella gives her a very hard time even from the beginning, but I expected some blowback given Stella’s situation.) Stella rebels, finds herself befriending a few of the locals, including an insta-love connection with Chet (“I’m an insta-love machine, and I won’t work for nobody but yooou….”)
The novel takes a turning point when horrible events bring back Stella’s connections to the crime she witnessed and hold the possibility of her being in danger again (or just the target of the local bad boy who hates Stella with a passion). And considering Chet’s feelings for Stella grow stronger, she’s torn between her loyalty to him, her loyalty to her former boyfriend Reed, and the secret of her identity. I could certainly see the divisions in that (though Reed became an afterthought once Chet was in the picture in full. Ugh). The narrative after that point has certain places where Stella’s character is flawed, but more tolerable than she was in the first half of the book. I actually identified with her grief over her mother, her struggles with her secret, some events that involve Carmina that allow their bond to grow more (and I liked Carmina probably the most out of all the characters in this book).
Even then, Stella’s still a TSTL heroine with all the rules she breaks while in protective custody, so it’s little wonder why she finds herself in trouble eventually while marching towards the end of the book. So…not much in the way of suspense for that reason. *sighs*
In the end, it was more tolerable than “Black Ice” and much of Fitzpatrick’s “Hush Hush” series, but I still had rooted issues with this book. It’s a combination of recycled narrative flaws and plot points/holes that didn’t measure up the book’s experience for me.
Overall score: 2/5 stars.