Release: March 8, 2016
Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.I read Seven Ways We Lie earlier this month, and it quickly became a new favorite—I can guarantee it will end up on my best-of-2017 list. If you’re still on the fence, here are seven reasons why you should read it too.
Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.
When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.
1. The characterization. Riley Redgate took a unique, clever idea (seven characters, each of whom embodies one of the seven deadly sins) and pulled it off with biting precision. Each character’s central sin subtly weaves into his or her personality, creating an engaging matching game as well as a thought-provoking look into the many vices that can drive us to lie—to ourselves and to others. I can’t pick a favorite character because each is endlessly complex, redeemably flawed, and hauntingly memorable.
2. The multiple POVs. Each individual character will captivate you, but their intertwining perspectives create an interconnected masterpiece. The combining voices in this story are some of the most distinct I’ve ever read (you won’t ever find yourself wondering whose chapter you’re reading), and the order in which their stories unfold creates perfect pacing.
3. The portrayal of sexuality. Seven Ways We Lie features an explicitly pansexual character who grapples with his orientation in ways both heart-rending and true-to-life—from worrying about coming out in a conservative town to explaining that no, he’s not bi. There’s also a girl who has a comeback for every slut-shaming comment thrown her way and a boy who’s clearly aromantic and asexual. (Even though the labels aren’t specifically used, can we talk about how much I appreciated a character saying he doesn't have crushes?)
4. The dialogue. Riley Redgate can write. Every element of her debut novel gleams with innate craftsmanship, but the conversations between her characters impressed me most of all. Whether pulled from a heart-to-heart or ripped from a vicious argument, every line of dialogue rolls of the page as if it jumped straight from a real-life conversation. The result is an immersive experience that will make you feel as if you’re living—not just reading about—the characters’ experiences.
5. The realism. Seven Ways We Lie provides a satisfying ending, but not a fairy-tale one; throughout the story, characters face challenges that don’t always get resolved in the way you hope or expect. This book is gritty and authentic, and it portrays high school scandals perfectly.
6. The varying issues. Redgate’s debut takes on several heavy topics—student/teacher relationships, divorce, sexuality, friendship, and more—and handles them all deftly. Each issue receives less attention than it could have with a more focused plot, but this only ties into the aforementioned realism. In life, we don’t always know all the details; we can only make the best of what we do share with each other, and reading a book that embodies this reality feels refreshing.
7. The expert storytelling. All these elements and more combine to form a tale that is brilliantly woven and utterly addictive. I read it over the span of a few days, completely obsessed. Reading Seven Ways We Lie is a captivating experience I cannot quite verbalize, complete with the kind of gripping writing that cannot quite be taught. I highly recommend that you, too, delve into this novel’s world of small-town high school scandal and lies that run deep; I doubt you'll be disappointed.