One Great Lie

S. & S./Atheneum. Jun. 2021. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534463172.
Gr 9 Up–In Italy for an elite writing fellowship, Charlotte, a recent high school graduate, is devastated by the firsthand discovery that her favorite author is using the program to groom and assault female fellows. From the beginning of the book, the narrator makes Luca Bruni’s intentions clear before Charlotte herself understands them. This structure means that the plot does not build toward a salacious plot twist---it builds toward awareness, and how that new information is received by Charlotte’s family, fellows, teachers, and the literary world that idolizes male geniuses with “complicated” legacies. These writing choices result in a work that is respectful and restrained yet powerful and emotional. While Caletti’s book is certainly not the first to address power, grooming, and gray areas of consent (with an additional layer of economic control), it is an extremely effective and layered look at the topic. The introspective and quiet narrative is beautifully written, with rich sensory details and nuanced explorations of sexuality, artistic motivation, loneliness, and jealousy—including Charlotte’s self-awareness about her own desire for Bruni’s attention. The protagonist’s overarching search in Italy for historical information about her ancestor, a female poet, mirrors her reckoning with Bruni’s legacy—underlining that the lasting impacts of assault and abuse are not only borne by the survivors themselves, but also by future generations who will know nothing of the beautiful and necessary voices of women who were silenced.
VERDICT A first purchase for libraries serving teens.

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