Carrie Stewart's Reviews > The Lying Game

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
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Sep 02, 11

did not like it
bookshelves: ya
Read from August 29 to September 02, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Emma Paxton is a foster child bounced from family to family since her mother abandoned her when she was five years old. When the book starts she’s living with a single mother in Las Vegas and having to put up with her foster brother Travis. An argument leads to her being kicked out, and the discovery of her long-lost identical twin sister, Sutton. A quick Google and Facebook search later and she’s on her way to Arizona for a heart-warming reunion with the sister she never knew she had. Of course, there’s a problem with this: Sutton is dead. In fact, Sutton is narrating this tale, having somehow materialised next to her twin after death. Though Emma isn’t aware of her, Sutton follows along as Emma folds herself into Sutton’s life, pretending to be her sister to find out what happened to her. Even though we have Sutton narrating, we’re still left in the dark as she has no memory of her death, or much about her previous life, and this includes what a horrible person she seemed to be. As Emma learns more about her sister, she uncovers The Lying Game, where Sutton was the ringleader of a group who got off on performing pranks on each other, and on those not in the group. Sutton is known as a wild child, she doesn’t do well in school and the cops have a file on her activities. She’s incredibly popular though and from a well off family, so there haven’t been any real consequences to her actions, until now. Has someone killed her because of the game? And is Emma next?

I picked this one up because I had heard of Pretty Little Liars but missed out on watching the tv show. I also wasn’t that interested in starting a long series, and thought this one was a stand alone. I was wrong, and this is the first in a new series. I’m a little bored of young adult trilogies and series to be honest, so if I’d known I don’t think I’d have bothered. And if I’d known how much I’d dislike this book, I really would have avoided it. Oh, where to start. First of all, I am obviously not the target audience for this book, but I have enjoyed many a YA tale recently so that shouldn’t really matter. This one was just…not good. The main plot seems like it should be a good idea – lots on intrigue possibilities and the mystery of who-dunnit, but it’s so cliche (and not at all thrilling) that it falls flat. The long lost twin thing has been done before, and other than the twist of having Sutton narrate the tale there’s little here to set it apart from those others. But I could possibly suspend my disbelief enough (even with the easy way Emma discovers her twin, oh hi Facebook) had it been well written. But it’s not. I alternated between boredom and frustration as I read, and as a book of only 300 pages it felt like it took me forever to finish – and I even skimmed a lot of it. It just didn’t hold my attention.

The characters fell flat for me too. Sutton’s friends mostly blur into one, and Emma is completely lackluster. And I’m not convinced she’s all that smart or capable. For example, it takes her forever to realise that Charlotte and Garrett used to date, and that Sutton ‘stole’ Garrett from her friend. I had assumed this was a given, from all the hints and basically straight out discussion of it at times, until Emma’s light bulb moment about 200 pages in. Christ girl, where have you been? Oh that explains Charlotte’s barbs about stealing boyfriends does it? Yeesh. And you’re the one who’s playing detective here? Sutton might as well give up hope of being found. Having a weak central character makes it difficult for me to root for her. And she can’t prove to anyone that she is not Sutton because she left her bag somewhere when she arrived in town and when she went back it was gone, so she doesn’t have her wallet. We are not just the contents of our wallets. How about you ring your friend Alex, or your last foster mother, or your social worker? There must be records of Emma ‘in the system’ that the police could easily verify. Instead we have a lame table announcement that her name is Emma. What a surprise no one believes her. At least later she’s threatened into keeping who she is a secret, which makes it a little more believable, but by then I’d lost the ability to care.

Emma is not all that emotional about Sutton either – that she had a twin and didn’t know, that she was lied to by her flaky mother, that she’s lost the chance to ever know her sister – or at least not until right at the end. There doesn’t appear to be any big shock or anger or real emotion at all. In fact, Emma is pretty robotic when I think about it. She just goes along with things without even really questioning that much, and then jumps to ridiculous conclusions based on no evidence. I’m starting to think I didn’t like Emma at all…at least Sutton is a bit more interesting. OK, she’s dead, but she doesn’t know anything about herself, and the revelations about her character are at least better done than her sister’s. Oh, and there’s a godawful seduction scene where Garrett decides the perfect time to sleep with his girlfriend is in the middle of her birthday party, where half the school and her family are in attendance. It comes complete with rose petals on the bed, champagne and ‘romantic’ music. And this is supposed to be his gift to her? What a great boyfriend. Cliche. Dreadful.

I think what most annoys me about the book is that nothing happens. It’s basically the biggest build up to a non-event I’ve read in a long time. Sure it’s the first in a series and it needs to set the scene, but have some sort of resolution or action. In the end Emma knows about as much as she did at the beginning. She doesn’t know when/where/how Sutton was killed or have any real idea who might have done it. She just knows something has gone on between Sutton and her friends. Great, I’m really glad I read the book to get to this. Oh wait, no I’m not, and I won’t be bothering with the next one either. I may never know who killed Sutton Mercer, but I can’t say I care either.
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