Cover Image: The Lies We Tell

The Lies We Tell

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Member Reviews

The Lies We Tell is another stimulating and socially conscious YA thriller from Katie Zhao that balances dark academia, a thrilling plot, and considerate character work.

It is no secret that How We Fall Apart was one of my favourite reads last year and Zhao continues that winning streak here once more with a completely immersive and gripping mystery. She has this innate quality to her writing that draws you into her web of deception, secrets, and lies. This is an immaculately plotted story with plenty of twists, turns, and red herrings thrown in. Every time I thought I had it all pieced together, another twist threw everything off-balance once more. The tension and pacing was spot-on, continuing to rise higher and higher as the stakes became ever more deadly.

This book really delves into anti-Asian hate crimes and structural racism, deconstructing the outdated traditional expectations of dark academia. The increased Sinophobia in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is a sickening reality and Zhao mirrors it in this story in some incredibly painful moments of sheer hatred. There’s explorations of white supremacy, the model minority myth, and the increased expectations that can be placed on the children of immigrants. The weight of the sacrifices made to get them there and how that impacts their mental health is explored in a really nuanced and intriguing way. Zhao also delves deep into the fetishisation of Asian women, culture, and the appropriation of cultural symbols. There are these horrific racist stereotypes that directly lead to harm and abuse, which is explored in the book. That being said, this story is heart-breakingly honest in its depiction of these issues, but they do not define our characters. They are struggles they must face and the impact of a culture trenched in white supremacist ideology, which are necessary to acknowledge. However, Zhao ensures that these characters are more than their associated issues, creating three-dimensional and incredibly lovable protagonists.

Anna is a brilliant protagonist. She is fiercely determined to discover the truth, but also deeply passionate and considerate. Her life is torn between home and school and added into that is this desire to uncover the truth behind the murder of her babysitter. She is mirrored really well with Chris, who shares that drive to succeed and a caring heart. I loved their dynamic and any scene they shared together stole my heart. That flirty banter is wonderful, though Anna spends much of the story oblivious to the fantastic academic enemies to lovers dynamic they have brewing. I loved the whole competing family businesses dynamic as well and particularly how many food descriptions we got as a whole. Food is such a nostalgic and emotive presence, bringing us together and allowing us to share our heritage through culinary delights. In this story, food is inexplicably linked to that diasporic culture and a way of Chris and Anna reconnecting with their families. Also, it hugely helps that their supporting cast of characters were all incredibly interesting as well. Of course, you never truly open your heart to some of them, as there is always an element of suspicion. Those you do decide to trust though are so damn lovable and have a real sensitivity to them. As always with Zhao though, I can never fully allow myself to relax until the final page, as I know there will be a final sting at the end of the tale.

The Lies We Tell is another firecracker of a book from a voice that I have utterly fallen in love with in the genre. Katie Zhao is an author that should be an auto buy for you.
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I really enjoyed this book. My favorite combo in a book is a story that is compelling combined with an aspect that makes it socially important and stimulates some thought. This book fits that description. Reading the descriptions of Anna's first year at college took me back in time, which was fun. Watching her investigate the death of her former babysitter, and then become involved in a mystery of her own, was compelling. And as the story shifted to draw attention to racism and hate crimes against Asian-Americans, I found myself increasingly moved and motivated to stand up against such hateful acts. As a bonus, I love that there was a little romance, and that the story was set in Michigan, where I also live. Will definitely buy and recommend to students at my high school!
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This book follows Anna, a freshman in college both looking for a new start and hoping to solve a cold case.  She has decided to attend Brookings University where her old babysitter was murdered 15 years earlier.  While she is there, a lot of strange things begin to happen to her as she begins to investigate the murder.  On top of solving the case, Anna is also trying to figure out who she is where she fits in in school..

This was both a great coming of age story and compelling thriller.  I really did like the character of Anna, although sometimes she did make poor decisions.  I thought the beginning of the book was more focused on her acclimating to college, which while I liked, I wanted more of thriller aspects.  The mystery was also very layered and poignant.  I loved how the author tied in Asian fetishism and racism into the narrative.  I think this will be a great pick for those who like both social justice books and also thrillers.
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Reminiscent of Ace of Shades, this is a fast-paced thriller circling around secret societies at a prestigious university. It's a really fun plot, though a bit predictable at times. I enjoyed Anna and Chris as characters, though Anna's lonerness meant that we didn't see many other side characters. Some of the plot elements were a bit far-fetched in terms of execution and believability, leaving me a bit disappointed. But there's still great discussion about racism and fetishization throughout.

*Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review*
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THE LIES WE TELL by Katie Zhao is a forthcoming young adult novel about a young Asian American women who as a college freshmen investigates a past death at her school. Kirkus gave this title a starred review ("In addition to the fast-paced, well-crafted main plot, subthemes abound and are all given full play: anime geek culture, White male domination of the Asian studies field, anti-Asian hate, and the sexual fetishization of Asian women."). I know students are interested in these topics and I was looking forward to reading THE LIES WE TELL, but, unfortunately, the title was archived early before I could download the preview. Therefore, I am giving it a neutral 3 star rating here.
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Anna is a college freshman, finally free from the loving yet strict confines of her Chinese American home, she wants to assert her new independence by, getting good grades, making new friends, and investing the unsolved murder of her former babysitter Melissa Wong. But, life in college is so much harder that it seems, getting  good grades take much more work , making new friends seems almost impossible, and her investigation into Melissa's death keeps hitting a brick wall. Will Anna be able to be successful in her new college life or will her investigation into Melissa's death lead her down a dangerous path? Pick up The Lies We Tell and find out.

The Lies We Tell is a very good YA/ New Adult thriller. Zhao gives the reader some really gripping moments but what was most impressive about the book is that sandwiched between the suspense were accurate depictions of college life as a freshman. Going to class was not just talked about, it was a vital aspect of Anna's life on campus. In addition, Anna being Asian on campus shaped not just the mystery element of Melissa's death but Anna's involvement in social justice causes which were crucial to helping her find her voice to speak out on campus against anti-Asian hate. It's not all seriousness, Zhao also gives the reader an adorable romance between two Chinese characters, nothing wrong with interracial relationships but I loved reading about Anna and Chris bonding over Chinese literature or bickering about their parents' rival bakeries. This book is great to introduce readers new to the thriller genre. 4.5 stars
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It's more like 3.75 stars. I really enjoyed this one. Anna moves into her college dorm with a plan to investigate the murder of a family friend that had taken place on campus 7 years ago. College life turns out to be harder than expected, and her sleuthing takes a back seat to trying to stay afloat academically. However, strange things have begun happening. Her friend from the FriendMe App is acting weird and strange things are starting to happen in West Tower. Has Anna poked her nose into something she shouldn't have?

This is a great book that a starts out with a mystery, then becomes a platform for to speak against the racism minorities, specifically in this book Asians, are receiving. Very timely, considering the hostility toward Asians we have seen following the coronavirus pandemic.
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The Lies We Tell is one of my most anticipated thrillers of 2022. I was not disappointed. Similarly to How We Fell Apart, I predicted the plot of this book; however, that did not make it any less enjoyable. 

This fast-paced mystery had a grip on me. It hooked me from the start, and before I knew it I had finished it in one sitting, I definitely thought that this book was more plot driven over character driven, which was a nice change of pace from a novel in a college setting. I felt that Anna knew what she wanted out of life, to get justice for her babysitter, and nothing was going to stop her. 

I did feel like there were many subplots in this novel. Nothing was left unresolved at the end, but I couldn't help but think that some were underdeveloped in comparison to others. I do feel like to fully develop everything as much as I would have liked, that it would have had to be a duology. Nevertheless, this is a solid novel that accomplished what it was supposed to do.  

The romance between Anna and Chris brought some light to an otherwise dark novel. I did feel that it was a bit rushed. I would have loved more scenes that showed how their relationship blossomed from reluctant allies to something more. 

As a mixed Asian-American woman, I appreciate that Katie brought awareness to hate crimes and the fetishization of Asians. I hope that this helps non-Asian readers that realize that as disturbing as this was for them to read...this was the reality that many of us have faced for years. The pandemic just brought it to light. 

This story has it all - romance, friendship, family ties, social issues, and the pursuit of justice. I would highly recommend to anyone who likes page-turning contemporary thrillers and social justice elements!

Thank you so much Katie, Bloomsbury YA, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this lovely book. I cannot wait to get my hands on a finished copy!
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thank you to bloomsbury for an arc!

look, this book was enjoyable, I LOVED the plot. but i also predicted it, and there were a few other things that were lacking! what i did love the most was how social issues were portrayed throughout the novel. it was unsettling to read about anti asian hate crimes, but as disturbing it was— it was true, IT IS TRUE and it is important for readers to understand that, especially white ones. i enjoyed the pairing of anna xu & chris lu, i would have liked to seen them as a more developed pair though!!— them teaming up is vital in this book and honestly reading those parts were amazing, but sometimes the writing made the reader think that the "working together part" and the romance was rushed at times.
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The Lies We Tell is one of my most anticipated thrillers of 2022, especially after Katie Zhao's exhilarating release, How We Fall Apart, last year. Unfortunately, this novel didn't live up 100% for me. There were a few areas of improvement that I would hope would happen from How We Fell Apart to The Lies We Tell in terms of character development and storytelling, but I didn't really see those improvements happen.

That being said, there were some aspects of the novel that I liked. The theme and general message of the novel is definitely important. The book discusses hate crimes against East Asians and fetishization of East Asians. I think the kinks of the mystery were also more well thought-out compared to How We Fell Apart.

One of the reasons I didn't enjoy this novel as much was because the plot felt so simple and cliche. There were many times that I felt like I was watching a Lifetime movie. There's a secret society in the novel called "The Order of the Alpha" and this organization acted as a mysterious threat to the student body. However, we barely got any information about the Order so I lost the mysterious feeling I got hearing about the Order. I also easily guessed who the "bad guy" was the minute they appeared on page. I would have loved to have more pages in this novel to allow the mystery to ruminate and build up because the story was so fast-paced (an issue I also had with How We Fell Apart). This is also marketed as academic rivals-to-lovers, but the rivals barely had any scenes together. Most of the novel, we see the MC by herself rather than interacting with the love interest. Thus, their relationship felt rushed and under-developed.

Overall, I definitely see so much potential in Katie Zhao's thrillers. I just wish there was more complexity and nuance to the plot.
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How we fall apart was one of my top reads and recommendations last year, especially to fellow POC/Asians. I had high hopes for this newest one and I wasn’t disappointed. I really enjoyed the characters as well as the real life way their cultures influenced their day to day lives. It was a fast paced mystery read with quite a few suprisies. 

Anna is finally in college ready to spread her wings from her family, even if the college is just across town. She’s ready to investigate the death of her former babysitter and stumbles across an old family rival, Chris. After some racist attacks against Asians she believes that it could be connected to her babysitters death. With feelings building between them, they set out to figure out what happened to her and root out the hate crimes that are happening around town. The social aspects of the book and what the current climate is like for many tied in very well and the themes touched on resonated with me. This social activism tied in with a mystery book was excellent. 

Highly recommend.
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The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao is a 4.5 out of 5 stars, terrifying & unputdownable dark academia young adult mystery novel. It revolves around college freshman Anna Xu attending Brookings University & learning to balance college life, grueling academics & also trying to solve the cold case murder of her childhood babysitter, Melissa Hong, from seven years ago.  As the year progresses, there’s a horrifying appearance of hate crimes & racism coupled with the mounting tension of weird occurrences happening in Anna’s life. I would highly recommend reading The Lies We Tell if you’re in the mood for a dark academia thriller! Please check trigger warnings! 
This book also has a slowburn childhood academic rivals to the most adorable budding romance. They just made my heart happy. I could totally see this becoming a fantastic movie. 
I have currently read two books by Katie Zhao & thoroughly enjoyed both of them. I’m such a fan of her eloquent writing style. Her stories scarily & perfectly mount the stress & tension of the thriller throughout, similar to the tunes of escalating horror movie music. She writes dark academia so well that I hope to keep happily reading them. I did predict the ending to this, but I still reveled in hearing how it all came together. 
Finally, I think it realistically portrays the horrors that come from just being & existing as a person of color in America along with the racism, bullying, name calling, actual violence & more that exist when people don’t accept those that are unlike them. It shows the worst of humanity. Thankfully, then it also showcases the optimistic hopefulness at the act of everyone coming together & celebrating each other’s differences & the necessity of fighting against racism for a better tomorrow for all. Katie Zhao is a brilliant thriller writer & I hope everyone else enjoys this as much as me! 
The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao comes out August 9, 2022!

Massive thanks to NetGalley & Bloomsbury USA Children's Books for giving me the opportunity to read an arc of this in exchange for an honest review. 

Trigger warnings: This book mentions &/or contains racism, hate crimes, xenophobia, violence, murder, 

I will post this on my Instagram & Goodreads once it gets less than one month before release. I will add links once I do post.
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Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao was a book I was most interested in especially since I really loved Katie Zhao's previous work, with How We Fall Apart a little disappointing but it was okay. I was a little reserved about this novel, but I really enjoyed this one a lot especially since I was not expecting the tadbit of enemies to lovers in it, and that  Anna's parents rivals is the Lus who's that exactly who Anna's boyfriend is: the son of the Lus. 

I really loved the discussion of Asian hate crimes in America and how it makes Asian and Asian American feel unsafe, even while at school. And that type of thing needs to stop, along with other hate crimes. 

I loved the fact that this is set on college campus! There's so few books with characters in college and I really want more of that, especially since at times, I don't want to read new adult books with it being on college campus. YA is sometimes better for that!
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This is a pretty solid YA mystery on it's own. However, I finished How We Fall Apart earlier this month, and this is listed as book #2 in the series. In How We Fall Apart, there is an unanswered secret that a lot of people are going to expect answered when picking this book up. Also, none of the characters overlap, and the setting is different. The only thing tying the books together is the theme/genre of "social activism/we all belong here anthem crossed with a thriller". I really like Katie Zhao's writing style, but I was wrongly expecting something else from this book.
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3.5 /5

I’m really struggling with how to review this book because I wanted to love everything. I really wish it would have been longer. It had so many great parts and the plot was good but it almost felt like it was trying to achieve so much that it missed the mark for me. Personally I think this could have been a duology. The mystery and plot felt like it happened a bit too fast. At 325 pages I found my self thinking there wasn't enough time to grasp the gravity of the events and the details we were being given. When the threats and mystery finally started to unfold the book was basically over. The mystery to me was predictable and the ending almost felt a bit anticlimactic. The romance was okay but I did appreciate how it tried to brighten up a darker story. 

 I struggled with the mashup of contemporary social activism/ thriller.  As an Asian American I appreciated the inclusion of real life and current events. I definitely think it’s important to readers but some how I felt like this story tried to throw so many layers at us it almost lost its poignancy. 

I don’t want to deter people from reading this with my review. I think this is a good book but it is trying to tackle so much. At it’s core it’s relatable. It’s about growing up and growing into oneself all while dealing with hateful stereotypes and racism. It’s also about family and being flawed and trying to find a place in this world. If you like fast paced contemporary thrillers then maybe give this a shot. 

Thank you Bloomsbury USA Children's Books and Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A pretty good mystery with a solid coming of age story line with just a tiny hint of romance. Well done and kept me turning the pages.
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