I’ll Tell You No Lies

Farrar. Aug. 2023. 224p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374390990.
Gr 7 Up–When 18-year-old Shelby Blaine gets relocated with her father to a new Air Force base, she is not expecting to find a wounded Soviet pilot hiding in their new house. Maksim insists he is a defector seeking refuge in the United States. What should Shelby do, when FBI and CIA agents arrive, looking for a KGB spy? When she confronts Maksim, the truth about his past becomes even murkier. Is the young man a defector or an enemy agent? Is he Ukrainian or Russian? What was he doing during WWII? McCrina develops an exciting, engrossing plot—as an unknown Soviet mole and known American operatives close in, Shelby and Maksim must choose what secrets to share, whether to trust one another, and how to save each other. The novel is sensitive to the complicated psychology and layered identities of the central and peripheral characters: Maksim is no more complicated than his CIA handler, a Jewish-German immigrant who adopts the bland surname “Jones.” McCrina also has an eye for details that make the 1950s historical setting immersive, whether naming a brand of lipstick, describing summer in upstate New York, or pointing to a specific, Ukrainian neighborhood in Toronto. As to the romance: is a strapping young man likely to be up for some smooches while suffering from a broken ankle and ethylene glycol poisoning? Probably not? Will readers be cheering on Shelby and Maksim? Absolutely!
VERDICT Thrilling, historically accurate, and morally complex, this title is sure to please readers of Elizabeth Wein.

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