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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Little Red Lies

Author: Julie Johnston
Originally Published: 2013
Publisher: Tundra Books, a division of Random House
Source: Received a copy through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program

The Story

Little Red LiesFrom the inside flap of the book:

When thirteen-year-old Rachel’s older brother, Jamie, returns from World War II, she is quick to realize he is not the same boy she grew up with. Traumatized by his experiences, Jamie cannot fit into the small-town mold of the son his parents expect him to be. When he contracts a devastating illness, the family is thrown into crisis and rumors about him swirl. Rachel’s parents, blindsided by complications of their own, become focused on saving their son.

Ignored, lonely, and horrified at the turn of events in her own family, Rachel finds herself seeking solace in the arms of a sympathetic but self-serving teacher. Will he save her from her shattered family or does he have other ideas? As Rachel struggles to find her place, Julie Johnston draws readers into a poignant tale of beauty, grace and forgiveness.

The Response

I loved this. Seriously loved this. It falls into the whole “fiction about WWI or WWII written by a Canadian author or taking place in Canada” category. (Pretty broad category, I know) I don’t think I’ve found a book in that category that I haven’t absolutely loved. There’s always something so raw and emotional about these books, and the characters are always facing so many struggles… It just makes for such a gripping read.

This book takes place immediately after Rachel’s brother comes home from fighting in WWII, and centres on the family’s adjustment to life again once the war is over, and how they learn to move on with life – even when the unexpected happens. And there are a lot of unexpected things that happen in this book. From leukaemia, to an unexpected pregnancy, to a paedophilic teacher… there is a lot to keep the reader engrossed in the book and rooting for Rachel and her family.

I really like how well developed the story and the characters were. By the time the last page came around, I was left feeling fully satisfied – a little melancholy, but satisfied. There weren’t really any loose ends left, and I felt like all of the characters had arrived at a place where they could handle everything that may be coming. Well, except on one front, but I like that that portion was left a little ambiguous. All in all, it was absolutely wonderful.

As much as I did love the book, there were two things that didn’t quite sit well with me. First of all, there were many times when I forgot how young Rachel was – she was written a lot older than she actually was (not through actions, but her thoughts seemed much older than what one would normally come across when reading other characters that age). When we were reminded about her age at a couple of instances, it felt rather jarring to the story.

The other thing that didn’t sit well with me was how Rachel and her friends reacted when they put together how they were being pursued by a paedophile. I would have expected that the experience would have been more upsetting to them, but a day after everything came to light they just laughed about what had been happening and got over it immediately. It didn’t feel… real.

But in the whole book those were the only two things that I didn’t particularly like about what was going on – I’d say that is definitely a good thing, right?

The Bottom Line

I’d definitely highly recommend this book. It was a beautifully written book, and I very much enjoyed it.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:11 am November 18, 2013.
Category: Young Adult
Book Author(s):

  • alibiblio

    Writing teenagers realistically must be so difficult. If you write them like a typical person of that age, they might lack the complexity or likability that you need in a character – if I wrote about my own son, I would wear out the word “good” before I got out of chapter one. If you invest them with enough maturity and insight to make a good story, you risk seeming unrealistic. But there are teenagers who think more maturely, and even typical ones can come up with some good stuff now and then, and I have to say I’d probably rather read about teenagers that seem too mature rather than ones that seem totally typical (“Hey” said one. “Hey” said the other one. “That’s dumb.” “Shut up, you’re dumb.”) :)

  • Courtney Wilson

    You’re absolutely right, it MUST be difficult. I can’t even imagine how someone would be able to write a realistic teenager. And yes, more mature is DEFINITELY preferable to the typical teenager. :)