‘Seven Ways We Lie’ by Riley Redgate

*This review will contain spoilers!* 

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to ABRAMS Kids, for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

As you can probably tell by the cover, ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ is based on the seven deadly sins, and we get seven viewpoints throughout this novel. We get to read the story from the perspectives of Olivia and Kat Scott (twin sisters whose mother left them three years ago), Claire Lombardi and Lucas McCallum (a couple who broke up last year), Matt Jackson (who’s struggling with his parents constant fights), Valentine Simmons (the smartest guy in school, but the least social) and Juniper Kipling (whose chapters are told entirely in a poetry style).
I automatically thought that seven perspectives was going to be too many – sometimes I find myself getting confused with three or four! – but it was manageable, and I ended up enjoying the book much more than I’d expected to.
There are many plots intertwined, but the focal point was the fact that there is an illicit student-teacher relationship going on. Valentine is the one that discovers it, overhearing a conversation in the staff room after school, but he doesn’t know who either of the people involved are: he anonymously reports it to the faculty, causing them to start student interviews straight away. Everyone assumes it’s Olivia, because she’s promiscuous, but I found it pretty obvious straight away that it was Juniper: she’s the only student who doesn’t joke about the revelation, and part of her poetry reads ‘if they’ll condemn Olivia’s open legs, they’ll condemn me if they ever find out’. There were clues dropped throughout the first half of the novel, leading up to the big reveal, but I didn’t think the clues were that subtle at all – it kind of detracted from the reveal, in which the reader was supposed to feel as shocked as Juniper’s friends at the news.
A lot of the plots revolve around relationships: Juniper and the teacher, Olivia and Matt’s burgeoning romance, Claire still struggling to deal with her relationship with Lucas, and Lucas – a pansexual character – dealing with his feelings for Valentine, who is asexual.
The only plot that doesn’t revolve around romantic relationships is Kat’s, which deals with her missing her mother and pushing her father and Olivia away. I thought her plot was one of the more interesting ones, because it was emotionally raw and was something I hadn’t seen dealt with much: normally the sibling who pushes the world away is a minor character in the background of the protagonist’s life, so I liked seeing her taking centre stage (in more ways than one, as Kat’s also active in the school theatre production).
Olivia and Matt’s relationship was cute – he’d had feelings for her for years, but she didn’t notice he existed until they got paired together in class – but I thought there was much more potential for development with them. The first time they speak Matt offends Olivia, really getting her back up, and I feel as though I would have found their romance more interesting if they’d had more difficulty getting back on track after that initial encounter. However, their relationship was realistic: they’re both as awkward as each other, and they become friends before they become anything else.
I didn’t really see much point in Claire’s inclusion, if I’m honest. I understand that there needed to be a seventh character, but Claire was the only person who didn’t have a strongly individual voice (at points I started to confuse her chapters with Olivia’s) and she didn’t have a strong character arc. She was envy (‘They stand beside me, Juniper with her blow-dried white-gold hair, Olivia with slim, dark jeans on her long legs. And me. Look at me, splotchy-faced and stumpy and never quite assembled correctly’) and by the end of the novel she apologised to Juniper and Olivia for being jealous and for taking her problems out on them, but I don’t feel as though she really accepted herself fully.
The only other viewpoint that I had a problem with was Juniper’s. I appreciated the fact that it was written in a different format, and that the author was trying something different to vary the perspectives, but it didn’t make much sense and it was difficult to enjoy. This could be because I was reading an egalley version of the book – it might be better on the page, where you can properly enjoy the style – but it made her chapters feel quite disjointed.
My favourite of the plots was definitely Lucas and Valentine. Valentine never explicitly uses the term ‘asexual’ to describe himself, but when he tells Lucas “I’m not into anyone […] conceptualizing crushes has always been a problem, and I just – I don’t” it seems as though that’s a certainty with his character. But Lucas’s insistence that he’s pansexual and his ability to formulate his feelings and his sexuality into words is something I really appreciated. I will be completely honest, I never really understood the different between bisexual and pansexual: I always kind of thought that they were synonyms. Lucas explains it in such a basic way that it’s impossible not to understand and I’m definitely going to remember it now – “There’s just just male and female. Some people identify with other genders […] Pansexuals can be attracted to any gender, a boy or a girl or somebody off the binary”. I think the fact that this is being focused upon in a YA book is wonderful, and it will definitely help a lot of young people who are struggling with their sexuality and don’t know how to put things into words.
This book is wonderful. It has ethnically diverse characters and many different sexualities, which is a genuine representation of a big group of teenagers. I also love the fact that it’s very feminist minded, because Olivia sleeps around but she isn’t afraid to challenge the double standard (“Why do boys get to be like, oh man, bro, dude, I’m gonna get mad pussy tonight, and people are like, ah yes, so normal, but if a girl goes out like, yeah, I’m trying to get some dick, everyone gets all puritan?”) and she knows her own mind and her own body, not allowing herself to be pressured into sex or sending explicit images to the guys that she’s already been intimate with. Her relationship with Matt might be a little bit on the weak side, because it’s quite generic, but her character in general is strong and would be a great role model for teenagers.
If you want to read a contemporary that deals with a wide range of issues, I’d definitely recommend this book! Riley Redgate’s writing is wonderful, and she’s great at writing multiple perspectives while still keeping the characters individual and their stories all interesting. This is Riley’s debut novel, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for more of her books in the future!