Truths We Tell by Brenda St. John Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
ARC received in exchange for an honest review.
I’m actually not totally sure how to rate this book. I have extremely mixed feelings on it and didn’t initially know whether I wanted to give it a 3 or a 4 star rating. I got so mixed up in Ella and Josh’s world that it was almost like I was on a bender that I needed to come down from before I could write this review. That ending shocked me, but after the initial shock wore off I decided I liked it. I’m okay now. I think I’ll live to read another day 🙂
The second book in the Love Me With Lies series picks up immediately after the events of the first book. I’m going to assume that anyone reading Truths We Tell has already devoured the first book so there are very light spoilers ahead. Ella has just learned of Josh’s connection with Eric and is totally dumbstruck by it. I LOVED this plot twist. When we find out exactly what it was Josh had to do with Ella and Eric’s messy past my jaw was on the floor. The big reveal made so much sense, but was totally unexpected.
This book was a super fast read. Once again, I was totally sucked into Ella’s train wreck of a life and couldn’t look away. This novel is compelling as all get out. The pacing is great and even when it doesn’t seem like much is happening I was entertained. I had a great time reading this.
BUT there were a couple of things that I was conflicted about. I really loved the flashbacks. I loved getting to know Ella even more through her mourning process. The scenes where she’s experiencing so much grief did so much to help me understand her as a character. However, other than to give the reader more insight into Ella, I didn’t really understand the point of the flashbacks. They seemed kind of random. If omitted, the book still would have been completely readable. While I enjoyed them, I didn’t get them. I kept expecting them to be super important at some later time in the books so I was reading them them super carefully like they were building up to something bigger. Like if I didn’t pay enough attention, I wouldn’t understand the big reveal. Unfortunately, the flashbacks didn’t seem to be a major thread in the story’s fabric. They were just there. They were interesting and I liked them, but they almost seemed tangential to the main story. Like they maybe should been a separate novella (which I would absolutely buy and read, for the record).
Additionally, as I wrote in my review of the first novel I didn’t quiet understand the way the chapters were labeled. Some said “two years earlier” some took place in 2011 (the flashbacks) and some took place in 2013 (present day). It took me a minute to get used to this again. I eventually got it in my head that 2011 = past and 2013 = present, but the fact that the author used these years was weird to me since the book never covered any events outside of 2013. So it seems like “two years earlier” and “present day” would have been better descriptors.
One thing I really love about this author is that her characters have realistic problem solving skills. People act human in her books. There’s no crazy town drama or big convoluted revenge plots with a million moving parts. Except in this book there kind of is! So when the rise began to fall and the conflict wrapped up, I was a little let down by it all. It felt kind of anti-climatic. I got so wrapped up in the drama, that when they drama failed to totally implode and go past the point of no return, I was forced to let out my breath and really think about this ending. Would I have liked this book as much with another ending? Would it have been as satisfying? Or would it have done this:
(Jumped the shark! Or nuked the fridge for you Indiana Jones fans. Pick a metaphor!)
No. I wouldn’t have liked it. It would have been stupid. And I would have been mad.
This author’s characters are amazing. They’re so multi-faceted and real. I loved getting to know Ella. I love that she wasn’t just another NA cliche. She was real and flawed and made a ton of mistakes. Her relationship with her sister and growing relationship with Trudi were incredibly endearing. Being in her head for most of this novel was a pleasure.
I wanted to be in Josh’s head more. I feel like he remained a bit of an enigma in this book. The book mostly focuses on Ella’s story and it felt like Josh wasn’t fully there for a lot of it. He made appearances, but didn’t feel fully fleshed out a lot of the time.
This review is awfully complain-y for how much I adored this duology. I’m not sure why I do that. If I hate something, I mostly just rant and post animated gifs that explain all of the stupid things that happened or (and this is what I do 90% of the time nowadays) I just DNF it. So I want to be very clear to you people:
YOU SHOULD READ THIS!
The writing is so strong. The characters are well-developed. I didn’t roll my eyes once. I kept being surprised by plot twist after plot twist. This review is so long and critical because I’m still coming down from a pretty bad book hangover… Because I was so wrapped up in this world that I’m having a hard time sorting all of my thoughts out. That’s why you’re getting this weird stream of consciousness review. I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is this time.
In conclusion: Brenda St. John Brown has delivered another quality novel. Every time I open something new of hers I mentally brace myself to be let down. So far, I haven’t been. (Which is actually kind of stressful when you think about it.) The pedestal I have Brenda on just gets higher and higher. No pressure, Brenda!
If you haven’t already, get started on this series now! It’s phenomenal! Then go read Swimming to Tokyo. If you’re one of my friends you may be getting that one for Christmas anyway!