Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On Titles and Lies

This past week, I read Justine Larbalestier's LIAR and
Judy Blundell's WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED. 
I chose these two books because of the "lies" in the titles.  I thought it would be interesting to consider the concept of lying as explored in titles that confronted it right from their covers.

At first, these books seem very different.  LIAR is an edgy fantasy while WHAT IS SAW is realistic fiction set in post-World War II America.  Yet they seem to me to have more commonalities than differences.  Both are set partially in New York, and characterize the city as home.  And both travel to a somehow wilder, unfamiliar setting (upstate New York, coastal Florida) where they are ill at ease and struggle to understand their place in the relationships they find there.

Both books are narrated in the first person by female, teenage protagonists whose confrontation of lying is critical to their sense of identity.  Both girls admit, albeit in very different ways, to being liars.

I started thinking about other recent YA reads in which teens explore lies and lying, be it to themselves, their family, their teachers or their friends.  In THE GOD BOX by Alex Sanchez, Paul tries unsuccessfully to lie to himself about his sexual identity.  In CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins, Katniss continually struggles with the potentially life-saving lie (?) that she loves Peeta. 

I begin to think that lying, perhaps very broadly defined as a failure to see or admit the reality of one's identity or circumstance, is an essential element of the teen experience.  And, perhaps, maturity comes with a more truthful perspective.  As I continue to read this month, I will be "hunting for lies" as a component of YA novels.  Please let me know if you can suggest any reads that might yield some tale-telling treasures!

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