Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mitchell, Todd. The Secret to Lying.

Mitchell, Todd The Secret to Lying
Candlewick Press 2010 329p 17.99
978-0-7636-4084-2 hs Self-Actualization VG

James reinvents himself when he is offered the chance to attend a prestigious science and math boarding school, but his demons, literally, keep fighting him in his dreams and the line between dream and reality seems to blur.
Reminiscent of Looking For Alaska, but without Green’s deft style, this is at times formulaic, at other times compelling. Every teen problem imaginable seems to be incorporated into this novel. The new kid at an exclusive boarding school, reinventing a new tougher persona has been used again and again. What makes this a better than the run-of-the-mill teen problem novel, is the tortured psyche of the protagonist, dealing with dream demons, cutting, parental problems, and abusing cough medicine before jumping out a window. A sub-plot deals with the anorexia of the girl of his dreams, and mysterious IMs from ghost44. Reluctant readers, especially those drawn to complex problem novels will gravitate towards this one as well. That said, the plot seemed a little too confusing for my student reviewer, who felt it was a mystery and/or a romance novel, rather than the complex and compelling problem novel that it was.

While there is implied sex, it occurs offstage and is peripheral to the major focus of the novel. The dream demons would lead one to believe that it will evolve into a fantasy, but it never does and the protagonist eventually confronts his “demons” and the ones in his dreams disappear. That may be trite to some readers, but the overall novel is compelling. Conflict Naismith, Pat

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