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Truth, lies, and secrets

Adolescence is a time of self-discovery — and of deciding how much of that self to reveal to others. These new YA books explore themes of honesty and dishonesty, secret selves and public personas.

angel_things I'll never sayWhen compiling the book Things I’ll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves, editor Ann Angel asked contributors to write “about the topic of our secret selves,” and the results reveal a wide range of interpretations of that theme. In Ellen Wittlinger’s “The We-Are-Like-Everybody-Else Game,” Lucy hides her mom’s hoarding. Cynthia Leitich Smith takes a characteristically paranormal approach in “Cupid’s Beaux”: “slipped” angel Joshua must decide whether it’s ethical to conceal his celestial identity and woo human Jamal. The stories span genres and offer plenty of surprises; the book can be read in one sitting without becoming repetitive. (Candlewick, 12–16 years)

juby_truth commissionSusan Juby’s The Truth Commission follows the unearthing of truths — and their consequences — by narrator Normandy and her best friends Neil and Dusk. On the first day of eleventh grade, charming Neil makes a startlingly direct but fruitful inquiry about a classmate’s plastic surgery, and the Truth Commission is born. Norm is eventually able to take what she’s learned about truth-telling and secret-keeping and apply it to her own life, confronting the pain caused by her famous-graphic-novelist sister’s grotesque caricature of their family in her books. Bright dialogue and appealing characters draw readers along as the friends navigate truths both light and dark, discovering themselves in the process. (Viking, 14 years and up)

lake_there will be liesWho is Shelby Jane Cooper? As she tells it, she’s a homeschooled seventeen-year-old girl with an overprotective mother. But that’s not who Shelby really is, and it takes a car accident for her to begin separating truth from lies. Her mother first whisks her away from the hospital for a surprise road trip, then reveals to Shelby that her father isn’t really dead. Soon Shelby has her own big reveal: “BTW, I’m deaf.” And then there’s “the Dreaming,” an alternate reality Shelby visits while asleep. Nick Lake’s There Will Be Lies is a kaleidoscopic mix of plot, characters, and setting, with addictive twists and nuanced themes. (Bloomsbury, 14 years and up)

suma_walls around usIn Nova Ren Suma’s twisting, ghostly novel The Walls Around Us, fifteen-year-old ballerina Orianna Speerling is convicted of murdering two rival dancers. A month after her sentence begins, all forty-two girls at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center are dead, victims of an unexplained mass killing. Ori’s story is revealed through two unreliable narrators: Violet, Ori’s best friend and fellow dancer who knows more about Ori’s crime than she’ll ever admit; and Amber, an inmate quietly waiting out a long sentence and keeping secrets of her own. Lyrical prose weaves the girls’ disparate lives into a single, spellbinding narrative. (Algonquin, 14 years and up)

From the March 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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