Thursday, November 28, 2013

REVIEW: THE LYING GAME (The Lying Game, #1) by Sara Shepard

Title: The Lying Game
Series: The Lying Game, #1
Author: Sara Shepard
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: December 7, 2010
Genres: YA, Suspense
Reviewed by: Books4Tomorrow
Source: Purchased
My rating: 3/5


I had a life anyone would kill for.

Then someone did.

The worst part of being dead is that there's nothing left to live for. No more kisses. No more secrets. No more gossip. It's enough to kill a girl all over again. But I'm about to get something no one else does--an encore performance, thanks to Emma, the long-lost twin sister I never even got to meet.

Now Emma's desperate to know what happened to me. And the only way to figure it out is to be me--to slip into my old life and piece it all together. But can she laugh at inside jokes with my best friends? Convince my boyfriend she's the girl he fell in love with? Pretend to be a happy, care-free daughter when she hugs my parents goodnight? And can she keep up the charade, even after she realizes my murderer is watching her every move?

From Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Pretty Little Liars books, comes a riveting new series about secrets, lies, and killer consequences.

Let the lying game begin.


***Review contains light spoilers***

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this book. I did. But there were some elements that frustrated me and which dampened my enjoyment of it considerably. This is my first Sara Shepard read and I’m so looking forward to reading her Pretty Little Liars series, but now, after reading The Lying Game, I’m wondering if my expectations of that series might be a little too high.

What I liked:

I loved the world-building in this one. We don’t get to see much of Emma’s foster home other than a few flashbacks, and a cursory glance of her bare bedroom in her last home. It seems the author’s focus was mainly on creating Sutton’s every-girl’s-dream bedroom and luxurious, but homely and welcome, home. I just wished she had shed more light on what life was like for Emma not having all the luxuries Sutton had, to bring that contrast more into focus.

I didn’t care one bit for ghost Sutton’s voice, but wow, does she have an awful personality (while she’s alive). I felt her shallow, snobbish friends had better personalities than she did and I liked them a lot more. But, what I especially liked about Sutton’s group of friends and her sister (who was bullied mercilessly by Sutton) is that I suspected all of them of murdering Sutton. It felt like every one of them had a hidden agenda and good motive for wanting her dead; and that kept me on the edge of my seat. Of the lot, I liked Charlotte the most, but I didn’t exclude her from my misgivings.

Sutton’s family setup was very well done and from the moment Emma walked through their front door, I felt right at home in their house. It was clear they’re a close-knit family, but I have to admit that I found it hard to believe it took them so long to notice Emma isn’t Sutton.

The cover, the title and the premise behind this story – fantastic! I just think the plot should’ve been planned out better and I don’t see why it was necessary to make it into a series. But I liked the one twin masquerading as another idea and there being an “evil” twin. But again, I genuinely feel this book would’ve worked perfectly fine as a stand-alone. 

The suspense was nail-biting and I loved how I was kept guessing as to whodunnit. The ending was also quite a surprise because it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. Naturally, because this is the first book in a series, it ends on a cliff-hanger and as curious as I am to find out who murdered Sutton and why, I’m not sure whether I’ll be reading the next book.

My most favorite aspect about this book, though, is that the plot isn’t romance-driven, and to my delight the romance is very low-key.

What I didn’t like:

I found the shift between points of view extremely confusing. I understand why the author wrote from both Sutton and Emma’s perspectives, but it didn’t make it any less confusing or bothersome. It interfered with the flow of the story, and it could’ve been so much more intense if the reader was left speculating whether Sutton is dead, missing, or pulling the prank of all pranks.

I understand that a lot of twins are very attuned to each other, but I just didn’t buy ghost Sutton being able to hear Emma’s thoughts. I’m not convinced ghosts can do that, even in fiction. Every time ghost Sutton agreed with or responded to one of Emma’s thoughts, I had to fight the urge to facepalm myself because it was annoying, implausible, and clearly used to manipulative the plot. 

Long-lost twin sister? Uh uh. I get that one sister was adopted and the other ended up in foster care. I can live with that. But the “long-lost” reference should’ve been left out. That’s just way too cheesy and cliché, and it wasn’t even explained why one sister was adopted at birth and the other not.

Mind you, the entire plot was rather unbelievable, but surprisingly, it didn’t bother me as much, though the lack of logic is harder for me to overlook than all the holes in the plot.

Here’s what I don’t get. When Emma stepped into Sutton’s shoes (literally and figuratively), she pretty much underwent a personality change overnight...which is fine and everything. But, I found it hard to believe when every time she snapped at her sister or one of her so-called friends, or came back with a snarky retort, she’d tell herself “it sounded like something Sutton would say”. Really? She’s never met or spoken to Sutton in her entire life. The only bit of info she had on Sutton is what she gleaned from Sutton’s Facebook profile. Yet she claims her replies sounded like something Sutton would say? There’s no way she could’ve known how Sutton would respond.

I didn’t fall for ghost-Sutton-only-having-snippets-of-memories-of-her-previous-life angle at all. It seemed contrived and too convenient a plot device.

Unless of course Laurel posted it online to attract Emma. Maybe she somehow knew that her adopted sister had a twin. And maybe she knew the video would reach Emma … and Emma would reach out. It had worked.

That part I found completely unbelievable. How would Laurel or the murderer figure out Sutton has a twin? How could Laurel possibly know – when she knows zero about Emma – that the snuff video of Sutton’s murder would reach Emma in the short period of time Laurel had it online? I hate when authors build a plot on far-fetched, impossible assumptions, relying too heavily on coincidence. I mean, if you think about it, did the killer’s thought process really go like this: kill bff/sister, post video online for a few hours, hope murdered bff/sister’s twin’s foster brother shows her the snuff video online when setting her up to take the fall for him stealing mom’s hard-earned cash signed by Bruce Willis, and twin realizes it must be HER twin sister (though she never knew she had a twin) and then she’d try to look her up so she can go live with her after foster mom kicks her out?  Nah, way too many coincidences there. Didn’t work for me. And even if someone else is the culprit, I hope that when that person is revealed, the author clues us in on how exactly the murderer lured Emma into such a set-up.

Garrett was annoying. That’s all.


I understand there’s a tv series based on these books, but I haven’t seen it yet. If I ever come across it, I’m sure I’ll watch it to see how it compares to this book. Maybe it will turn out to be like the Vampire Diaries tv series. The books were awful but the tv series rocks!

I’m definitely going to give Pretty Little Liars a chance (it’s somewhat further down on my to-read list), but I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be continuing this specific series. I love that this is a clean read and suitable for tween readers, which makes it a book I’d recommend for them, but I have to say this: there’s nothing in here that hasn’t been done before in other books, and for that matter, done better. The writing is uncomplicated and the storyline easy to follow, and it’s another book I finished in a couple of hours. If I was asked to sum it up in two words, I’d say: “nothing remarkable”. Even though this won’t make my top fifty reads for the year, I won’t dissuade anyone from reading it. All I’ll say is that if you’re older than twelve and decide to give this book a go, then at least throw all logic out the window first, or you might not enjoy it as much.



The Lying Game by Sara Shepard has 1 923 reviews on Goodreads. Read it here.


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