The Lying Game is the first book in a new cliffhanger mystery series by Sara Shephard of Pretty Little Liars fame. The second book in the series is out as well, with a third on the way, but the whole thing is already a TV show on ABC Family. The book is predictable and preposterous in some ways, but Shephard really is excellent at both building exciting twists and turns that are completely un-guessable as well as creating a premise is very interesting, if clunkily done.
Here’s the premise: the main character, Emma, is a 17 year old foster kid whose mom abandoned her when Emma was five. Then her mean-spirited foster brother sets things up to make it seem like Emma is a thief for stealing money and a crazy person for staging what looks like a snuff film of herself posted to YouTube. The foster mom kicks Emma out and Emma is stunned by the YouTube video: the girl getting strangled to death looks identical to Emma! There is a name on the video: Sutton Mercer. So Emma does some Facebook research skills to track her down and learn about her. Emma believes that Sutton is her long lost identical twin sister, so she messages her to see if they can meet and Sutton says yes. The thing is, we readers know that the YouTube video is real. Sutton is really dead. Because Sutton is narrating the story as a sort of Lovely Bones-type ghost that follows Emma around and can hear her thoughts.
There are some well-trod elements of the book: Sutton is rich and her friends are shallow shopaholics, so there that Mean Girl Rich Girl dynamic going on like in Pretty Little Liars or The Clique books or others of that ilk. There are also some aspects that may require readers to stretch their believability filters to enjoy the story. For example, when Emma shows up to “meet” Sutton, Sutton (being dead) is not there, but everyone thinks Emma is Sutton so Emma pretends to be Sutton; even though Sutton was a tennis star and has taken German for 3 years and Emma knows neither of those things, everyone still believes that Emma is Sutton.
Also, the narration is sometimes jarring because it’s in the third person about what Emma is doing, but then dead Sutton will interject with first-person commentary and flashbacks of her life. But the twists and turns are fantastic and there is definitely a delicious paranoia and absorbing mind games going on. Who killed Sutton? Who used Sutton’s account to invite Emma to meet? Who really knows that Emma is not Sutton? Do they all know? Why is Sutton a ghost? Readers who want a unique mystery spiced with fashonista teens will be thoroughly entertained by this book.