The Secret to Lying by Todd Mitchell
Release Date- June 2010
Candlewick Press Hardcover, 368 Pages
James was the guy no one noticed — just another fifteen-year-old in a small town. So when he gets into an academy for gifted students, he decides to leave his boring past behind. In a boarding school full of nerds and geeks, being cool is easy. All it takes is a few harmless pranks to invent a new James: fighter, rebel, punk. Everyone’s impressed, except for the beautiful "Ice Queen" Ellie Frost and the mysterious ghost44, an IM presence who sees through his new identity. But James is riding high, playing pranks and hooking up with luscious Jessica Keen. There’s just one thing awry: he’s starting to have vivid dreams of being a demon-hunting warrior, a thrill that is spilling over into dangerous and self-destructive acts while he’s awake. As he’s drawn deeper into his real-life lies and his dream-world conquests, James begins to wonder: What’s the price for being the coolest guy around? (GoodReads)
High school sophomore James arrives at the American Science and Mathematics Academy boarding school (yes we are finally seeing a YA dork academy and not the gothic, creepy one normal to this genre) looking for a fresh start and a new life. James takes the opportunity to reinvent himself to the students. Instead of the nobody he was, he claims “rebel outsider” whom spent the majority of his time as a freshman, street fighting and stealing cars. Of course this places James in the ranks of drool-worthy stardom amongst the herd of nerds at this school and it’s not long before he stands out as a true rebel. While James finds some quick pleasure in the lies and friendships based upon his faulty exterior, inside he is a very sad and confused guy. Disturbing nightmares begin to take a toll on James as fantasy begins to mix with his reality. Sword fights in the dream land become real razors in the bathroom. Teachers, students and friends try to reach out and help James but addicted to his own destruction, he aimlessly tosses away one relationship after the other.
Mitchell’s use of the dark dreams and paranormal demon fighting were as I understood it- used metaphorically to link James mental turmoil in wanting to be that someone and the self-destruction of his cutting together. I understand why these elements were used but I felt it almost didn’t fit in with the coming of age story delivered. Not that this was a bad thing, but had it been left out it wouldn’t have been missed.
The Secret to Lying was a surprisingly humorous and almost heart breaking look into a young man’s mind of low self esteem and self-discovery. Todd Mitchell’s writing was fantastic, I felt he sincerely knew how to talk to the young teen, but was also able to pull me (a woman no longer a teen) back to a time in my life where James was highly relatable and recognizable. James is the average teen, and what I liked about this book even with the tad bit of paranormal flair on the side- he remains average. Never does James launch into this unbelievable super-hero of a guy but becomes the super-hero of overcoming real life issues. The ending for me was very heartfelt and left me with a sense of hope for the future life of this character.
One of the funniest and most relatable chapters in the book for me was when James goes shopping with his mother. She was a highly annoying woman and reading through the –put these pants on James, wear this sweater James, brought back irritating flashbacks of the women in my life at the age of 15, who were trying to dress me into the images of what they believed me to be. By the time my mother, step- mother and aunt finished, I resembled a bonafide dork with really bad hair!! I had a lot of angst rise up in me during this time- deeply from the fact that I never felt I had an outlet to express myself as an individual.…….
While I loved this book- there are many mature themes in the content. I was saddened by how casual sex was used but also reminded how casual sex was in my train of thought at that age.
Violence, drinking, swearing and the issue of cutting and anorexia are all touched on- recommended for the mature teen/ adult.
4/5- YA Coming of Age
Thanks to Candlewick Press for Review Copy
You can Pre-order Your Copy at Amazon