Lies My Girlfriend Told Me - Julie Anne Peters

Swanee is dead. She suffered a sudden heart attack while practicing for track and field. Left behind is her girlfriend Alix, who is devastated and lives in denial for a brief period of time before things start to unravel. When she goes to Swan's house to offer condolences, Alix finds Swan's phone and notices a series of texts from someone with the initials LT. And LT seems to think that she was Swan's girlfriend. Alix manages to piece things together and finds out that LT is actually a girl named Liana who really was dating Swan. In a moment of irrationality, Alix texts the girl as if she is Swan, but it's already two weeks since Swan has died, and Liana still has no idea. Soon Alix's conscience kicks in and she confronts Liana in person to try to straighten things out. As the two girls try to overcome feelings of anger, frustration, and betrayal, they also start to see in each other some of the qualities they never found in Swan, and thus, the relationship begins to blossom.

The great part of this book, right from the start, is that it's not a lesbian problem novel. The girls are comfortable being gay from the start, and while there is some remembrance of coming out moments in the past, the novel does not focus on coming out, gay-bashing, or anything specifically gay. Almost all of the relationship trouble and angst are treated as things that ALL teens go through, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Peters' writing is, as always, solid and compelling. Her style is precise, which is great in a book where there is so much going on. You wouldn't want the plot taken over with long meandering descriptions of setting or objects or people (not that these sorts of descriptions are ignored, but are rather just much more succinct.) This style makes the novel feel more urgent within it's 250 page format.

While I feel that Alix and Liana are incredibly well-rounded and fully-realized characters within the book, I did find myself wishing for more from two secondary characters, namely Joss (Swan's sister), and the memories of Swan herself. Joss felt a bit flat to me, switching constantly between extreme anger about Swan's death, and moments of realization at her irrationality, but she never seems to learn from those moments and doesn't ever seem to grow beyond her own self-absorbed melodrama. Swan, as well, seems to only be a catalyst and even as others call upon memories of her, there seems to be very little in terms of redeeming qualities. She feels like a stereotypical villain, though at least there is a bit of discussion about how her parents were partly responsible for that.

In any case, Lies My Girlfriend Told Me is a solid work of contemporary realistic fiction that works on a number of levels to explore the aftermath of the death of a loved one, and the consequences of living a life of lies. Kudos to Julie Anne Peters on another cogent and authentic story in an impressive body of work.

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