Review of The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao


The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao

Published on November 15, 2022 by Bloomsbury

Source: eARC from the publisher for review

Plot Summary for The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao

Anna Xu moves out of her parents' home and into the dorms across town as she starts freshman year at prestigious Brookings University. But her parents and their struggling Chinese bakery, Sweetea, aren't far from campus or from mind, either.

At Brookings, Anna wants to keep up her stellar academic performance and to investigate the unsolved campus murder of her childhood babysitter. 

While there she also finds a familiar face – her middle-school rival, Chris Lu. The Lus also happen to be the Xu family's business rivals since they opened Sunny's, a trendy new bakery on Sweetea's block. Chris is cute but still someone to be wary of – until a vandal hits Sunny's and Anna matches the racist tag with a clue from her investigation.

Anna grew up in this town, but more and more she feels like maybe she isn't fully at home here -- or maybe it's that there are people here who think she doesn't belong. 

When a very specific threat is made to Anna, she seeks out help from the only person she can. Anna and Chris team up to find out who is stalking her and take on a dangerous search into the hate crimes happening around campus. Can they root out the ugly history and take on the current threat?

Review of The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao

I LOVE a good dark academia book. And I am also a big fan of YA Books Set in College.

So I was excited about this one. For some reason I was certain that this was a sequel to Katie Zhao's debut book, How We Fall Apart, which takes place at a Manhattan high school.

Okay, I thought, these crazy kids from How We Fall Apart are headed to college. But I couldn't find any connection between the two. 

So there are FOUR aspects of the book I'd like to discuss:

First, the totally Tweet Cute feel of The Lies We Tell. Anna and her (frenemy/crush) Chris both have families that own Chinese bakeries in the college town where Anna and Chris live. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book, which looked at the Anna-Chris relationship and also the two rival restaurants.

Second, the new adult/college aspect of The Lies We Tell. I loved this aspect of the book as well. I have college-age kids myself (I know - when I started blogging they were in middle school!) And going to college in the age of social media is HARD. I'm serious. I loved the way this book showed Anna struggling to connect and make friends.

Third, the mystery and Dark Academia vibe. This part of the book was ... weak.  I don't think anyone but a teen or tween reader would find the mystery in this satisfying. It felt very simplistic and the characters felt pretty flat.

Fourth, I did love that The Lies We Tell focused on anti-Asian violence, which has become a big concern where I live. This is an important issue, not just to Asian communities but to all of us who care about everyone feeling safe and valued. 

So, while as a mystery fan I couldn't really get behind that part of the story, I think that other things about The Lies We Tell were great and will be appreciated by teen and adult YA readers.

If you are looking for a mystery, I think How We Fall Apart succeeded better on that front. And I hope that Katie Zhao will try her hand at some YA romance!