The Truth About White Lies

Little, Brown. Mar. 2022. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780759554122.
Gr 9 Up–A shy newbie at an elite high school struggles with a racist family history discovered following her beloved grandmother’s passing. Country-raised and grieving the unexpected death of her grandmother, white teen Shania Hester moves to the nearby city of Blue Rock as a high school junior to attend the elite Bard Academy for Excellence. She brings her lunch from home and works extra shifts at a donut shop to pay for fixing a crooked front tooth that makes her self-conscious; she doesn’t want to burden her mother with the cost. Despite these self-reliant bona fides, Shania’s more weak than strong, especially after she uncovers a family secret: her great-grandfather participated in racist redlining in Blue Rock that denied housing to Black residents. She gradually deteriorates into an insecure and impressionable girl in thrall to two classmates, siblings from the wealthy Tane family. Shania swoons over Prescott’s baby blues, and even though he’s controlling and their time together is on his terms, she skips work and cuts class without complaint. His sister Catherine, a popular queen bee type, loops shy Shania into her crew for reasons that at first seem unclear. Shania doesn’t guess the siblings’ motives: Catherine’s is to protect her brother, and the motive of Prescott, a likely white supremacist and certain perpetrator of a racist hate crime, is to use Shania as a patsy. Does Shania’s guilt about her past blind her to Prescott’s present threat and violent acts?
VERDICT This novel sags under the weight of its own intentions and a protagonist who can’t help readers figure them out.

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