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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Review: Little Black Lies by Tish Cohen


SYNOPSIS: On the first day of school at the elite Anton High preparatory school, Sara Black allows a classmate to mistakenly assume she is a wealthy student from London, England when really her father is the new school janitor. From this point on, the “little black lies” start piling up along with the tremendous academic pressure that Anton besieges students with. For Sara, being new is a perfect escape from the embarrassing trials and tribulations of her old life. Nobody has to know that her father is barely controlling his raging OCD, that unlike almost every other student, they have no money and live in a rundown apartment, or worst of all, that her mom ran off to France with her a new boyfriend. But when one of the most popular (and malicious) girls gets suspicious and starts asking questions, how long will it be before Sara chokes on the web of lies she’s ensnared herself in?

REVIEW: Imagine you are a teenage girl and your mom runs out on your family. Then your dad transplants you into a new town where you have no friends and are forced to attend the most intimidating prep school on the planet. Oh and by the way, you also have to deal with your dad's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which is rapidly spiraling out of control and made worse by his chosen profession! In Little Black Lies, Sara Black’s whole world is turned upside down when her mom runs away to France. If you were in her shoes, would you be tempted to hide the truth too?

Tish Cohen has created a character both endearing and relatable in Sara Black. When I was reading Little Black Lies, I could definitely put myself in her shoes and sympathize with her character. If I was her, I never would've thought one seemingly innocent lie would spiral so far out of control either! The book really started moving full steam ahead for me though when Sara discovered her dad had been circling their vintage VW bus, checking and rechecking the locks for countless hours throughout the night. Until that point, I didn’t truly understand the extent to which OCD can affect a person. Nor did it ever occur to me what it does to people like Sara who must live with the OCD sufferer and try to help them. I also appreciated how we were shown the intermittent flashbacks to earlier events. Through those glimpses, I was able to gain new insight into Sara and Charlie’s characters.

Anton students refer to themselves as “Ants” and Tish Cohen has incorporated interesting ant factoids into each chapter. The chapter titles were also witty little word plays that directly related to the story line such as “Skirtie come home”, “Petting Pool” and “Slush Snooker”. I found these extremely amusing as well. The following is just one of my favorite ant factoids—

Amazon ants take other ant species as slaves. The Amazon worker ants lie idle as these slaves do all the work- even feeding the slave masters by regurgitating into the Amazon ants’ mouths”.

Little Black Lies was an extremely well written novel with a lot of heart. My favorite aspect of the book was that the consequences of Sara’s actions were completely believable. There was no magical twist that saved the day and tied up everything with a big red bow. I would love to see the lives of secondary characters like Carling explored in a second novel too. As the most vicious girl in school (there's always one, isn't there?), Carling Burnack was such a detestable person that I found myself really loving to hate her. I would've been interested to learn more about her dysfunctional family life and how she acted when her minions weren't around.

I really hope Tish Cohen is able to write a sequel to Little Black Lies- I'll definitely be eager to check it out!

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 320 Pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (October 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606840339
ISBN-13: 978-1606840337
Buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, etc

Tish Cohen is the author of several books for adults and young readers. Her adult novel Town House was a 2008 finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book Award (Canada and Caribbean region) and is in development as a feature film. Cohen’s middle-grade novels, The Invisible Rule of the Zöe Lama and The One and Only Zöe Lama, were published in Canada and the United States. . She has contributed articles to some of Canada’s largest newspapers, including The Globe and Mail and The National Post. Having grown up in Los Angeles and Orange County in California, and Montreal, Cohen now calls Toronto home. You can visit her online at http://www.tishcohen.com/.


Kelsey said...

I just got this one in the mail today, so I'm really looking forward to reading it! Great review! I wonder if there will be a sequel...?

Tish Cohen said...

Kim, thank you so much for the lovely review. I am thrilled you enjoyed the book!

Jill of The O.W.L. said...

I hadn't heard of this book. Sounds good!

The Book Owl said...

Good review! I'm looking forward to reading this.

Kate said...

This sounds like a really fun read. The plot is really interesting. Superb review!