Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Posted September 19, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 3 Comments

Lies We Tell Ourselves

 by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves

 Expected Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Obtained Via: Advanced Reader’s copy given by the publisher through Netgalley. This in no way influenced my opinion of the book.
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the story morning glory

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.


A lie I told myself while reading this book: Nope, not getting emotional at all.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is a spectacular book. In just over 300 pages, Talley manages to deal with racism, sexism, prejudice of all sorts, historical information that draws parallels to today, and somehow manages to tell a story as well that gives the issues all the complexity they deserve.

To call Sarah and Linda “different” would be an understatement. On paper, they should abhor each other. Sarah is one of the first students to be integrated into the public high school, and Linda’s father runs the newspaper that speaks out against integration all the time. Both of them have been brought up by their parents to believe in things a certain way, so when they end up on the same school project, they clash. . . all the time. But somehow, along the way, they begin to regard each other as something closer to equals–Sarah may argue with Linda, but Linda realizes that Sarah is just as smart as she is, if not smarter. All the while, both girls are grappling with something else deeper inside them, trying to figure out what it means. From there, each of them find themselves very much challenged.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is told in a split POV and in this case, it really works. Sarah’s voice feels so authentic–it’s raw and full of pain, but also hope. Sarah is smart and talented, but she also finds herself becoming a beacon for a movement–a movement she agrees with, but at the same time, she just wants to be a person. Linda finds herself regurgitating her father’s viewpoints at first but struggles with really believing them considering who those views come from. Linda’s voice is hard to read at first, considering her prejudice, but it’s insightful and really tactfully done.

History is often hard to read about, and I find the era in which Lies We Tell Ourselves particularly challenging to read. It’s not easy to read about integration in such a raw way. Even though it’s a fictional account, the story aspect of Lies We Tell Ourselves puts more of humanity on the face of that period than any history book ever could.

Tackling both race and LGBT issues in a historical book while remaining accurate to the time period is no easy feat, but Lies We Tell Ourselves really manages it. It was brilliant, really–the way Linda is forced to confront her own prejudices as well as face her true identity drew quite a few parallel to issues of prejudice today, without ever feeling over-the-top. Lies We Tell Ourselves invites discussion, not declarations.


Lies We Tell Ourselves is an amazing debut that I KNOW I will be re-reading. If you like history or books that deal with LGBT issues(or both!), get thee to a bookstore. It’s all really fantastically and tactfully handled, and will make you both think and possibly cry at the unfairness of it all at times. 5/5 cupcakes.




5 Stars

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3 responses to “Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

  1. I’ve been meaning to read more books set in historical periods that I don’t know very much about, and this book sounds like a really great read. I’ll keep my eyes out for it! Great review, Stormy!

    • Stormy

      Yeah I haven’t read many books set in this period either(and I have to admit I know less about the period than I would like). It was a difficult book to read but I’m SO glad I did.

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