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Monday, January 21, 2019

LITTLE WHITE LIES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Little White Lies, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, debutantes, Southern belles, freeform, ya books, ya mysteries, ya contemporary, book review
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Print Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Freeform (November 6, 2018)
Set in the gentrified south among debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines the charm of a fully-realized setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off. When Sawyer Taft agrees to move in with her grandmother, she expects some things to be different, but what she doesn't expect is to get sucked into a group of over-privileged, yet somehow lovable debs who have—wait for it—kidnapped one of their own in hopes of blackmailing her into keeping their secrets under wraps—secrets which are far bigger and more scandalous than anyone could have imagined. As Sawyer works to uncover the identity of her father, she must also navigate the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, and help them discover the villain among them.

At some point in my blogging career, I’ll stop prefacing every contemporary review with “I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary…” but alas, this is not the review in which I do so. I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary, generally, or at least, I used to think I wasn’t (maybe my tastes are changing?), but I most certainly am a fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Little White Lies.

To be fair, it’s got additional elements than just “contemporary” : there’s a healthy dose of what I’m going to call “soft mystery” — more on that in a minute — as well as a hearty dash of Southern Bellery, and a scoche (is that how you spell scoche? That’s how I’m going to spell scoche) of snark.

All of the elements would be right at home in your favorite over-the-top soap opera: rich people with shady secrets, lovelorn teens, cheating and pregnancy scandals, blackmail and schemes that would probably land one in a federal prison, kidnapping (again, prison), absurd amounts of generational wealth, and a young girl from the wrong side of the tracks, thrust into the middle of it all. Oh, and debutante balls. Of course.

And yet it never feels false or cheesy; playful, yes, but not necessarily unrealistic. Alternating between what I’m calling D-day (aka Debutante Ball day, aka present day) and various stages of the past that led to the debacle that is D-day, Little White Lies maintains a series of gentle mysteries (who’s my father, how did everything fall apart, who’s blackmailing whom and why, who is this mysterious blogger, what other secrets are people hiding), answers to which are slowly revealed, as Sawyer learns more about her family, her mother’s past, and her place in this wealthy world that she never knew she was a part of.  I’m calling these things “soft” or “gentle” mysteries, because they’re (for the most part) not life or death/stalking/murder/things you’d find in a mystery-thriller. It’s a story of secrets, balanced by a lot of heart and humor.

I'm not saying Little White Lies is life changing or revultionary. I'm just saying, it was damn enjoyable, snarky and funny, and surprisingly effective — enough that it ended up in my Best of 2018 list. And that's saying something for a contemporary.

Here's to looking forward to book 2!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by... someone? Disney Hyperion, I think? IDK, it just showed up in my mail in this awesome package, and I read it, and I liked it.
All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own, and are based on a finalized copy of the book.
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  1. Well, I confess this wouldn't be one to normally grab my eye, but you've got me convinced that I need to know the answers of Sawyer's mysteries. :)

    1. Let me know what you think if you end up reading it. It was a lot of fun!


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