Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley

[I am currently on holidays until the end of August, I’ll be replying to you all, blog-hopping again and everything then! Thank you for understanding, love you all!]

There are no spoilers in this review.

I’m not fearless and I know I tend, sometimes, to stay away or be a bit more wary of books dealing with big, important issues. Despite my love for contemporary stories, some stories are always hard to read because, unlike in fantasy, you know these stories are based on the truth. Characters, made-up-places and everything don’t cover up the fact that these things happen, even if they did in a different way. ANYWAY. I’m here to rant about Lies We Tell Ourselves because that book was really, really good and I loved it so much. It was intense, yes, but it was also very important.


β€œLie #1

There’s no need to be afraid.”


Set in the 1950’s southern united stated, Lies We Tell Ourselves tell two sides of the story of segregation. On one side, there is Sarah Dunbar, one of the firsts in a group of black students integrating an all-white high school in Virginia. On the other side, there’s Linda, one of the girls in this school, daughter of one of the most fervent defender of the segregation. This may seem like two sides of one story, but really, Lies We Tell Ourselves gets important when their sides collide, when the two girls are forced to work on a school project together, and everything changes.

Lies We Tell Ourselves isn’t an easy book to read – for me it was, at least, because it doesn’t sugarcoat anything about segregation, integration or what this new group of students get through while they are trying to integrate. I don’t know much about this period of time in the united states, but I know that it is such an important part of the history of the country, and also one of the darkest parts. It was really interesting to get to know it a bit better thanks to fiction, and it made my heart break, squeeze, hurt seeing everything happening to these students and overall in that period of time. It was quite intense to read about the violence, it was quite mesmerizing to get into Sarah’s shoes for just a couple of pages and feel her fear for her sister, her family, her life.



β€œOther people will try to decide things for you, she says. They’ll try to tell you who you are. Remember, no matter what they say, you’re the only who really decides.”


Both of the characters in this story were well fleshed-out and distinct. Told from their two point of views, I was thrilled to see that both Sarah and Linda had a different voice, one I could recognize while reading their stories. If their path met more than once, if they had many moments together, the writing was fluid and the story did not repeat itself at any times. What amazed me the most, and probably my favorite part of this story, was how the characters developed and changed as the story evolved. Both Sarah and Linda’s growth was so good to follow, as they took things into their own hands, grew fearless, or at least grew knowing how to held their head up high a bit better, grew knowing what they wanted a bit more, defined and shaped themselves and their own desires. I found myself growing more and more attached to each of them as the story went on, especially towards Linda, with whom I had quite a hard time at the beginning of the story.

β€œThat lovely face sets off a fire inside me that isn’t ever supposed to burn.”

The relationships between the characters were well-portrayed and, just like the rest of the story, felt realistic. At the very beginning, I never would have imagined Sarah and Linda to grow closer and become friends, even more, to develop feelings towards each other. Yet, the development of the relationship was very well handled and I could actually understand it. The fact that the book is set in the 1950’s and Sarah’s attraction to Linda, and vice-versa, is seen as different, as very confusing, especially for Linda, made it all the more interesting to follow. Her internal struggles between her feelings and what she was supposed to do, the person she thought she was supposed to be versus who she really is, were great to follow.

If we didn’t get too much of the families in the story, which I’m a bit sad about, I’m still glad they were still present, on both sides. I especially appreciated getting a glimpse at the parents’ struggles, on Sarah’s side, to make both hands meet, their fights for their rights and everything. Another thing I loved is Ruth, Sarah’s sister, being there and part of the story, part of Sarah’s mind and I loved how fiercely she wanted to protect her.


Lies We Tell Ourselves was told from such an emotional way, I really could feel each of the characters’ struggles with them. Everything, from the situations, to the way they all reacted, felt quite realistic to me, which helped me love this book even more. I’m not much of a historical young adult kind of girl, yet with this one, somehow it worked – I think it’s mainly because, while the topic was hard to read about, it still was quite interesting to follow, realistic, engrossing and most importantly, I wanted everything for the characters, these characters I grew to love, to be okay, in the end.

Final rating:Β  4 drops!

Trigger warnings: racial slurs, hate crime, homophobia.

Β Do you want to read Lies We Tell Ourselves? What was the last book you read that made you emotional? Share your thoughts in comments!

Robin Talley, Lies We Tell Ourselves, Β Published by Harlequin Teen, September 30th 2014.

Β goodreads-badge-add-plus-fad3b68d35050280ea55d50f17c654b5

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

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47 thoughts on “Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley

  1. We talked about this already, but I have to say again how much I looooved this book. Like you said, it’s so so raw. The horrific racism Sarah and the other black students are subjected to is absolutely horrendous. The scene where they arrive at school for the first time is particularly harrowing. Her constant concern for the safety of her sister too, and how that storyline played out really got me in my heart. Such a great book. I need to read some more Robin Talley.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, same here. These scenes just broke my heart over and over again. I felt so sad and wrong reading this, wrong thinking about this kind of thing happening. It was a powerful, important and great book for sure. I am SO happy you loved it as well! ❀ I need to read more from this author just as well. Do you have any on your radar? πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment πŸ™‚ I really hope you’ll give it a chance, it was such a great book and yes, it was great to read about a world I haven’t experienced πŸ™‚


  2. Oh my goodness, this book sounds so heartbreaking and raw but so important as well. It’s always difficult to read about things such as racism, sexism etc but it’s very necessary too, isn’t it? ❀

    Historical fiction is a genre I don't often read and, seeing as I'm trying to broaden my reading, I definitely want to start picking up more historical books! Wonderful review! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes. It’s so important but quite hard to read about this, but it was such a good book, it was worth it! ❀ I hope you'll give that one a chance: I'm not much of an historical reader either, yet I ended up loving that one πŸ™‚ Thank you SO much, Kyra! ❀ ❀ ❀


  3. I don’t read too many emotional stories, because the real world makes me sad enough, but this subject is one I have read many times before, and am always fascinated by. I guess it’s because I grew up in a northern city, and this just was not a thing, but I am glad there are people still telling this story in a way that may reach people. My last emotional read was unexpected, it was A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Crystal Sutherland. I thought it was going to be funny, which is was, but then it reaches this point where stuff gets read – abuse, suicide, death, abandonment — it reaches this emotional peak, and there were so many tears.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get it. I hope you’ll want to give that one a chance, it was a great book πŸ™‚
      Oh I have that book on my TBR, I didn’t know it was such an emotional read – I’m impatient to read it, but also a bit nervous now ahah πŸ™‚
      Thank you so much for stopping by ❀ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review for this book Marie. πŸ™‚ ❀ Before your review I hadn't heard of Lies We Tell Ourselves but now I am definitely going to be adding it to my to-read list. I know they're not the same but the fact that this book deals with hard-to-read but big important issues reminds me of The Hate U Give, which is an all-time favourite read of mine from this year, and if this book is anything like that one I'm sure I'll love it as well. Plus you've given it a great rating so I'm even more sure! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so, so much, Beth! I hope you’ll read and love it as much as I did. I haven’t read The Hate U Give yet, as you know, but that book was a very powerful one as well πŸ™‚ Thank you! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so happy that you enjoyed this one Marie! πŸ™‚ I read this earlier this year and absolutely loved it. Even though I did have some knowledge of what it was like back then in America, it was still hard to read like you said.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I completely agree! This is such a powerful and amazing book and I’m so glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh I love this book so much! I agree, both Sarah and Linda went through a lot of character development and I loved going through this journey with them. This book completely broke my heart and I also love how it doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Reading about segregation in textbooks vs reading about it in this book just made everything so much more real. Great review, Marie!

    Ooo, the last book that made me emotional is the one I just finished, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. It was a sobfest but I loved that book πŸ˜€ .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’m so glad to hear you loved this as much as I did. It was really good to see characters growing, changing, even if it was a bit of a heavy subject at times.
      Ohhh I haven’t read We are Okay, but heard good things about it, I should add it to my TBR πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was a wonderful review, Marie! I’ve had this book on my TBR for quite a while now, but this gives me a push to read it, because I see it tackles difficult issues, and everyone knows I love me sad books. πŸ˜› Really good to know that you connected so deeply with the characters. Flat characters are my worst nightmare. 😩

    ~ Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you so much, Aimal! I really hope you’ll give this book a chance as soon as you can, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it πŸ™‚


  9. Like you, I avoid some heavy subjects, especially because they are “real” and touch people more than any dragon battles! Some things are heavy to stomach… But sometimes, you are brave enough to read and it feels right πŸ™‚ I just read something about the Apartheid, and it was difficult. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you so, so much my Sweechie ❀ It's exactly how I felt. It was hard to read this book, yet it felt right to know more about this period and everything πŸ™‚ Thank you! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It can be really difficult reviewing books that are based on real issues – especially when those issues are big things in the world. It can also be scary to offer up your opinion on these issues in reviews when so many people tend to scrutinize everything others say. I think you did an amazing job talking about this book and reviewing it, because it really deals with some heavy stuff. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this one – it makes me want to pick up my copy and reread it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really IS hard to review these kind of books..I didn’t know where to start. Thank YOU so much, I’m so happy you enjoyed my review, Kelly! ❀ ❀ ❀


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