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The Secret to Lying

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  391 ratings  ·  97 reviews
A teenage boy’s self-reinvention gets out of control in a sharp, funny, poignant, and compulsively readable novel that gives a familiar theme a surprising twist.

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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 8th 2010 by Candlewick Press
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A train wreck waiting to happen and an artful blurring between reality and fantasy, The Secret To Lying masterfully delves into one teen’s struggle to be noticed. The boy who was often forgotten, James finds himself at a new school with a fresh start. With opportunity ample before him, he holds nothing back in the stories he comes up with regarding his past- until it becomes too much even for him.

On a shallow level, this book is about lying and reaping what’s been sown. On the deeper level Mitch
Much as I appreciate the recommendations of my friends, at this point I'm going to ignore everything they say about Todd Mitchell because they are unforgivably biased. You see, he's a local author and he's done a lot of writing programs with the library for teens, some of which I've attended and enjoyed. But because many of my fellow library-goers know him in person, I think they may be prejudiced towards his books. I enjoyed Traitor King, but it wasn't as mind-blowing as they led me to believe. ...more
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-wo ...more
The Secret to Lying, is about a boy who doesn't feel that he fits in at his school or even at home. He feels overlooked everywhere he goes, until he is offered the chance to go to a new school. A boarding school for nerds actually. James figures anything would be better than his life the way it is, so when the next school year starts, he is living in a dorm and starting over at a new school. The thing is, James believes that his life was too boring to let anyone know about his actual life, so in ...more
The real secret to Todd Mitchell’s book, The Secret to Lying, is that while it is shelved in the teen fiction section most adults would probably find it just as enjoyable and relevant. The story follows James Turner as he attempts to find a balance between who he is and who he wants to be. Invisible and ignored, James gets an opportunity to reinvent himself when he goes to a new school. His yearning to be noticed leads him to lie about his past and who he is, and as the lies snowball his eccentr ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by John Jacobson aka "R.J. Jacobs" for

Moving to ASMA (American Science and Mathematics Academy) gave James a chance to change himself. No longer would he be the nerdy guy who didn't get a date or any attention. No longer would he be invisible. Instead, James can start a new life. Through lying.

Suddenly, James is seen as someone exciting. Sure, he's going to a school for math and science, but there is a definite sense of coolness about him now. He hangs out with his room
Arapahoe Teens
Catherine's Response:
Beginning this book, I expected a fairly shallow look at how a boy goes from zero to popular kid with a few minor hiccups and well-played pranks along the way. I got so much more than that. Instead I found myself immersed in a story about the struggles of dealing with isolation, loneliness, and control. Todd Mitchell examines some of the most difficult and controversial parts of being a teenager, such as having sex for the first time, self-image issues that can lead to eati
Aug 04, 2010 Liz rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: t-a-b-reviews
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Here's a review I wrote for

Todd Mitchell

Written by Charlie Malone
Monday, 27 December 2010

“The geeks let me be whatever I imagined.”secret_to_lying

This realization gives teen-aged James Turner permission to become anyone he wants at his new high school. At any moment it seems James might get lost, damaged, or destroyed by his reinvention of himself. Young adulthood can be terminal. This truth gives The Secret to Lying its drive.

Aiming this book at high school-aged young adul
Epic Wins: (What I loved about the book!)

- The message: That sometime we are our own worst enemy and that we have choices to make in life that are ours alone.

- Like I said with It Started with a Dare, lying sucks! James has to lie and twist the truth till he doesn’t know who he is and has to find himself; he does this through his dreams.

- James: When he wasn’t lying he was pretty funny, made me laugh a lot.

- All the crazy pranks that him and his roommate (Dickie, a guy who speaks in a British
In this coming-of-age story, James starts a new school and uses that opportunity to create a different persona, based on a series of lies. As one would predict, this doesn't work out so well, and he struggles to figure out who he really is and how to end his self-destructive behavior.

I don't read a lot of fiction, but I was drawn to this book because I went to a high school that is very similar to the one James enters (which is based on one the author attended). It was good to be reminded of wha
David Hilton
A quick read, this one keep my interest for the most part. I didn't love the dream sequences - guess I would have edited them out - but presenting the protagonist honestly with his glaring faults makes for a layered narrative. Looking forward to reading "Backwards" by the same author. It sounds great and "The Secret to Lying" indicates that Mitchell is a promising YA writer.
I got this book free from Librarything Early Reviewers.

Meh. Although this sounds like the kind of thing I ought to like -- boarding school novels, psychologically troubled teens -- I really couldn't get into it. Half the time it felt like a ripoff of Looking for Alaska , and I figured out ghost44's identity almost right away. I might pick up this author again, depending -- I think he has promise, anyway, even if I didn't like this book. The book didn't suck, it just wasn't as good as it could h
Fey McMahan
Aug 28, 2010 Fey McMahan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who is or was a teen
Simply put, The Secret to Lying, by Todd Mitchell, was amazing. Rarely do I encounter a YA book that so accurately captures the challenges and thrills of being a teen. It’s been a few years since I’ve been a teenager, but this book brought it all back to me – the awkward struggle to fit in, the desire to be unique and exceptional in some way, the playfulness and seriousness of friendships and new love. This book has it all. And although the book primarily hones in on the struggles of a teenage b ...more
Emily Bailey
The title to this book could give the impression of someone who lies constantly and gets into trouble with his parents or the police. Instead, this book tells the story of someone who makes up stories about his past in order to fit in at his new school as a slightly dangerous, but cool person. I thought it was very well-written, though I knew who the online ghost he talks to really was in person. It's a story that gave me some to think about and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Todd has done it again. This is a great story of choices and consequences. When James has a chance to reinvent himself to be cooler, he loses his true self. He isn't alone. What is real and what is facade? And where would you choose to live your life?

Once again, author Todd Mitchell, came to my school and led our middle school students in an amazing creative writing workshop. Thank you Todd!
Seonah Kendall
I just finished this book and loved it. I have passed "The Secret of Lying" to my 13-year old daughter and she is really enjoying it too. This book allowed me to talk to my daughter about some important topics and has really opened up our line of communication.
Oak Lawn Public Library - Youth Services
Lexile Level: 730

Pages: 328

Summary: A nerdy 15 year old gets into a special school, and decides to reinvent himself as “cool” with lies, a haircut, clothes, a girlfriend and extremely unusual behavior. He begins having strange dreams and his reality begins to blur. His life gets turned upside down.

Comments: The author attended IMSA (Illinois Science and Math Academy), and based some of the story on actual events that happened according to my niece who also attended the school.

Stars: 4 out of 5

Sarah Schwister
At first I thought this book was just a nifty take on a cliche, I kept reading as I enjoyed the style and the writing was smooth - its one of those books that you say one more chapter and you lose the next two hours easy. It took quite a few good turns in it that I don't want to ruin, although the dream sequence parts I wasn't a huge fan of. I understand their symbolism and everything, but to me they just weren't believable. I find them necessary but not my cup of tea. To me, this book was a gem ...more
Tammy Dahle
My Thoughts:
This is the second book this month that I have read about teenagers reinventing themselves. I think that's a fantasy all dream of doing at one time or another. I know I did. Especially during those teenage years when most are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.
James gets a second shot to reinvent himself when he is transfered to a new school with a new set of peers. James makes up a brand new past and dives in to his new life determined to be someone different
James is the kind of kid who plays on the football team but never gets an H on his locker from the cheerleaders--and no one even notices but him. Stuck in obscurity in corn field, Illinois, James yearns for so much more and thinks his prayers have been answered when his good test scores get him admitted to a public gifted boarding school. With a wise-cracking roommate and a whole new bad boy identity he cultivates through lying and pranks, he soon has a reputation, and that's way better than hav ...more
Book Sp(l)ot
When 15-year-old James gets accepted into American Science and Mathematics Academy, a boarding school, for the start of his sophomore year he takes the opportunity to reinvent himself. Gone will be the nearly invisible James that no one will remember once high school is over and in his place is a new James, an adventure loving, car stealing, street fighting James--created by lies. Known across the school now, dating a cool Junior and reviled as the cool kid among all the nerds at the school, Jam ...more
Danielle Larca
When James Turner gets into the American Science and Mathematics Society, he sees it as an opportunity to reinvent himself. At his old school, James was nearly invisible, but at ASMA he makes up stories about his past life, letting his new peers see him as a street-fighting, car-stealing, bad-ass. For the first time in his life, James is noticed. At first it's innocent; a couple of pranks, sneaking into his girlfriend's room, staging a protest over the cafeteria food. But no matter what he does, ...more
Amy Y.
The Secret to Lying by Todd Mitchell is about a young sophomore named James who enrolls into the American Science And Mathematics Academy, a private boarding school where all the gifted students attend. After James's past from his old school, James creates his new self by inventing lies about his life and accomplishments. Now, everyone thinks that the life of new James are all true, but suddenly, an IM pop-up whose screen-name is ghost44 knows about James's harmless lies and tries to make James ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
To be honest, I didn't know what to make of this book. I felt like I drifted through it in James' desperation; the desperation of being alive and not buying it. I found it interesting how the author managed to implant a real-life experience into a surreal concotion of labyrinthine dreams and knowing that it's easier to run away from yourself than to face yourself but that escape is just impossible. I suppose that this isn't the type of book I normally read. It didn't put me on the safe side of a ...more
One day he was invisible to the known eye, and the next, he was flying high in the spotlight.

James has always been invisible at his old school. He was ignored, dateless, and felt worthless. When the opportunity comes for him to head off to ASMA, he takes it. It's a school focusing on science and math, and it's for the highly intelligent students that belong to basically nowhere else, but he's pretty decent on those topics, so why not? In his mind, a new place meant a new start and a new him. Aft
Summary: James Turner is a typical teenage boy, the type no one cares to notice. When he starts going to a new school, American Science and Mathematics Academy, he creates a new identity for himself, explaining away the cuts on his arms and his sour demeanor as the products of a “rebel, punk, street fighter.” The entire school falls for his lies with the exception of the popular and unimpressed Ellie Frost as well as an omniscient online presence named ghost44. James falls deeper and deeper into ...more
invisible, average teen james turner finds an opportunity to recreate himself at a public boarding school two hours from his hometown. it starts with a sid vicious poster and a few lies about where
the scars on his arms came from. then he dyes his hair purple and begins planning pranks with his roommate. soon he's lying about everything. but no matter what he does, he can't impress the lovely
and aptly named ellie frost.

when he starts having vivid, crazy dreams and getting IMs from a mystery "gh
Lori Johnstone
I read Todd's most recent book, "Backwards" first, so maybe I am doing this right... as this book came before. I don't have a whole lot to say except...You know that feeling you get when you have found a new author that seems to get inside your head? They write exactly what you want to read and you are absolutely thrilled about it and can't wait to get your hands on more? This is that kind of book for me. SO insightful. A YA book that is hip enough for teens and also possesses the deep insight t ...more
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In high school, I was voted "Most Likely To Go Insane." I don't think I've succeeded in that department yet. As far as I know, I write books for young adults and teach creative writing at Colorado State University. This goes to show that we can't all live up to our high school expectations.

My first book for young adults, The Secret to Lying, was just released in June, 2010 by Candlewick Press. I
More about Todd Mitchell...
Backwards The Traitor King A Flight of Angels

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“It was the people who tried to seem normal all the time who were really messed up” 10 likes
“In order to know that you're dead, you have to be conscious. . . but if you're conscious, then you're not dead. the only thing you can know is being alive, so that's eternity.” 5 likes
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