THE LYING GAME (Lying Game #1)
Releases December 7th
Received from publisher via NetGalley
Emma's life is far from perfect. So far from perfect it's almost laughable really. Abandoned by her mother at a young age, she's been bounced from one foster home to the next, and now is just weeks away from turning eighteen and becoming responsible for herself. In a bid to get her removed from her latest family early, her foster brother shows his mother a video of a young woman who looks identical to Emma getting strangled and slumping lifeless in a chair, only to open her eyes a few minutes later. Left to assume Emma's into some less than savory activities, her foster mother asks that she leave immediately.
Completely shocked by the girl on the video and with nowhere to go, Emma contacts and sets out in search of Sutton Mercer, the young woman who shares her face. Thinking it's a twist of fate and she's about to meet a long lost twin, Emma arrives in Sutton's hometown only to find no sister waiting for her. Sutton's friends and family mistake Emma for her twin, no one apparently aware Sutton is missing, and she's quickly swept up in a life unlike anything she's ever known.
Just as Emma's life was never easy, she quickly learns Sutton had quite a few problems of her own. As the ringleader of a group of cruel and selfish girls, Sutton had a multitude of individuals with innumerable reasons to wish her harm, and Emma struggles to figure out who might have taken a simple prank too far and actually ended Sutton's life, as it's clear she's not coming back. More alone than ever despite being surrounded by the seemingly ideal life, Emma burrows deeper into the background of a sister, a stranger, and an apparent murder victim.
Twisted and deeply knotted with strand after strand of possible truths, The Lying Game is a story in which there are no certainties no matter how often our mind assures us things are what they appear to be. We travel forward with Emma, supposedly in a straight line, only to find at some point along the way we've rounded multiple corners without our knowledge and are no longer progressing along the same route we started. We are but rats in a maze, hapless and floundering, as Ms. Shepard erects walls and positions them accordingly, forcing us to follow her desired route as she leads us deeper into the murky interior of a mysterious labyrinth full of secrets, mistakes, and unknown adversaries. The correct path, the one lined with the answers we seek, is nothing but conjecture and the theories we concoct with every morsel of information we stumble across are as thin as gossamer threads, fleeting in and out of plausibility the farther in the maze we trudge.
This story is unique in its telling, giving us a third person point of view as we follow Emma's assimilation into a life not her own, but this perspective is interrupted intermittently by flashes of first person thoughts and memories from Sutton herself. Sutton, in spirit form, is in fact our narrator, attached to Emma in a way where she can only see and hear the things Emma does and has little to no memory of the events leading up to her death. Thus we are granted access to both sisters, each revealing pieces of Sutton's life to us from drastically different perspectives–an outsider's questions and musings stem from Emma, and limited but extremely telling remembrances occasionally flow from Sutton. Emma's unfamiliarity with Sutton makes her impressionable, with little choice other than to believe the evidence she uncovers, and when her observations are combined with Sutton's muddled recollections of the girl she used to be, we are given a more thorough, though not necessarily clearer, understanding of one Sutton Mercer. Left alone with Emma, we might believe as she believes and follow the logic we are presented, but with the addition of a disembodied and amnesiac Sutton, we are forced to question, suspect, and theorize far more deeply and abstractly.
Sutton is a completely fascinating young lady, one who's personality is fundamentally split in two as a result of her death. One the one hand, we have the girl Emma is impersonating, a callous, egocentric and somewhat diabolical little girl leading a charmed life. Then there's the spirit of Sutton, a repentant and confused woman who seems as horrified as Emma by the truths revealed about herself. We want badly to believe in deceased Sutton, to view her with sympathy for the fate she's apparently suffered, but there's a lingering sense of disquiet and a residue from her previous life that yet clings to her, refusing to let us drop our suspicions entirely. Every little detail seems to be part of a larger game, forcing us to question whether we are side by side with friend or foe and whether we are chest deep in trouble with victim or villain.
The more information we are provided, the more the faith in our previous knowledge wavers until we reach an ending that brings us full circle yet sets us firmly back on square one. The Lying Game is a three hundred page question mark, one that appears to be slowly unraveling a truly puzzling set of circumstances, but is ultimately weaving more complicated knots, each more difficult to untie than the last. With the turn of the first page, we effectively set our first chess piece on the board, indicating the game has begun and we are now at the mercy of the moves and whims of a very intimidating opponent in Ms. Shepard. I never have been one for losing, so bring on book two, my game face is now firmly in place.