Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate.
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary.
Publisher: Amulet Books.
Pub. Date: March 8, 2016.
Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—whether it’s Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage; or Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.
When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.
Personal Enjoyment: ●●●●●
Writing Quality: ●●●●○
I was totally on the fence about picking this up. I had heard some early enthusiastic reviews, some coy mutterings of possible LGBT+ representation. My reservation came from its premise: Seven Ways We Lie is based on the seven deadly sins, and I did not want for the LGBT+ aspect to be presented as a manifestation of the character’s sins.
I was pleasantly surprised.
This book is told from the perspective of seven characters, and from the first page I could see these characters were far more than their “sins.” Each character had a distinct voice, and though I did have my favorites (Olivia, Matt, Valentine) I would call that more a matter of personal preference. I think any other reader could just as easily relate to any of the other four characters. I’m a big fan of multiple points-of-view, and I think the seven perspectives worked really well together.
The LGBT+ elements came in the form of Lucas, who was openly pansexual, and Valentine, who was explicitly (but still unlabeled) asexual. The portrayal of pansexuality, along with Lucas’s exhausted attitude toward “coming out” again and again, was so heartfelt and realistic. Though he wasn’t one of my favorite perspectives to read from, I loved the way he and his sexuality were written. I can’t speak to the quality of Valentine’s asexuality, but I felt it was very clearly expressed.
Other things worth mentioning:
- Along with the LGBT+ characters, we also had Matt who was Mexican-American, and Valentine was also on the autism spectrum (probably Asperger’s Syndrome).
- Olivia was sexually active (“lust,” of course), and in spite of the slut-shaming thrown her way, she was a confident and responsible character with a strong sense of self.
- The student-teacher affair was never sensationalized or romanticized– it was a complicated situation with no easy answers, but it was never portrayed as a healthy relationship.
In spite of this being a high school drama, there were no “Mean Girls.” The characters struggled through relationships and friendships, made mistakes, forgave each other; they felt like real 17-year-olds, not what Hollywood would have you believe 17-year-olds act like. I loved seeing each character slowly come together with the others. Sure, high school can be shitty, but it isn’t always. Riley Redgate managed to capture every bit.
The reason I couldn’t give this 5 stars all the way around was because everything wrapped up too nicely. I would have liked 50 more pages where some characters faced serious consequences instead of everyone getting over it all and being happy. Some characters were dealing and doing drugs, most everyone was underage and drinking, and there’s one character in particular who did some seriously awful things the entire novel… yet the only people forced to face consequences were the student and teacher involved in the affair. This could have been because there is a serious lack of parental guidance (or existence) throughout the story, which was also frustrating. As someone on the wrong side of teenagehood, it seemed the subconscious take-home message was “Parents are doomed to failure: this is your future and there is no escape.”
Overall, though, Seven Ways We Lie was a fantastic novel, and one I will be raving about for some time to come. I recommend it to anyone looking for some levelheaded contemporary sans high school romance going on soulmates, flawless virginal main characters, and reality-TV levels of drama. Riley Redgate writes with overwhelming grace and tact, I’m already craving whatever else comes out of her mind.