Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson // ARC Review

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⭐️⭐️

Content Warning: Emotional abuse

I’m conflicted because the author includes resources to seek help for abusive relationships and mental health treatment. However, I thought that the story was a bit hypocritical in its execution. Maybe too much happens at once to focus on a central theme but it felt like watching a CW show like Riverdale where nothing makes sense. It’s theatrical and sacrifices authenticity which should accompany these sensitive topics.

For example, gender matters when it comes to stalking apparently. When Sasha breaks and enters, puts in hidden cameras, or privately installs a tracking device on a phone she is painted as unhinged. Crazy even. This is rightly so as no one is allowed to be manipulative and controlling. Yet, when Gabe persistently talks to a girl who initially seems uninterested, he doesn’t take the L and bow out. Instead, he’s always on the look for her, secretly follows her home to see where she lives, texts her ‘half a dozen times’ even though she doesn’t reply, and spies into her privacy.

Of course, there really is something up and it’s all justified. Gabe is caring, worried, and heroic. It’s all done in the name of love despite how eeriely similiar his behavior is. I know we want to defend him since in the end, he was in the right and manages to be there like the savior he is depicted as. But this isn’t always the case as many stalkers convince themselves that they are a benevolent protector to unsolicited victims. The logic states that “she doesn’t know she loves him yet” so all it takes is a little nudge. Granted, the main difference is that Kat eventually asks for his help after he proves that he doesn’t have malicious intent (although he’s extremely nosy). Just for the record, a red flag was raised the first time Gabe explains he absolutely has to trail Kat without her consent because she’s not giving him the answers he wants. I want to point out victims have the complete right to decide what happens even if it means waiting to come forward. It’s frustating to see the people you love hurt, but it has to be on their terms.

Anyways, rant aside, Lies You Never Told Me is like watching a car wreak. Specifically the victim falls in love with the hit and run driver. Hmmmm. It’s one thing to have flawed characters, but it’s another to label their actions differently. I’m not sure how I feel about Kat trading in one questionable guy for another. Gabe didn’t make it hard to come across as a creep.

What I liked are few and far in between. The drama did stir up my emotions and there were valid points. Gabe is brown so his testimony is less credible than a white person’s unfortunately. I wanted the story to go in a direction to highlight the ways in which we readily believe lies because they’re beautiful. Elyse is more than happy to accept these inappropriate feelings from someone she respects. She’s never been the center of attention so what better person to fulfill that than a literal stalker or child predator. It’s tone deaf to call that romantic when victims of abuse already struggle explaining how intrusive it is to their rightful privacy. I’ll link a video called Stalking for Love by Pop Culture Detective that goes into depth about why this is problematic narrative as it always rewards the stalkers and undermines the victim’s experiences.

P.S. So you’re telling me that a single teenager can:
✓ hire actors to orchestrate a scripted illicit rendezvous
✓ deep fake video footage/audio recording
✓ wipe all fingerprints
✓ leave no witnesses behind
✓ steal a house key, make a copy, and slip it back before you notice
✗ and almost get away with it only to confess?!?

I recommend this for fans of ‘edgy’ high school drama without the emotional investment it requires to develop characters who have to face the consequences of their actions.

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Gorgeous. Thank you for left aligning the title instead of the standard centered. I love how the type seamlessly weave in and out of the smoke. The black background offers a stark contrast to the font which seems to illuminate. Yellow is a fantastic choice with a rounded serif. I don’t know why but it works.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange of a fair review!

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