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Once Upon a Lie

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Once Upon a Lie is about two strangers who become unlikely friends, only to unintentionally put each other's life in jeopardy. Jaleel Robeson, a gifted, eighteen year-old black man, falsely accused of murdering his father in a small Texas town, is on the run. He assumes a new identity in 1980s Los Angeles as a successful student on his way to college. Alexandra Baten, a restless sixteen year old white girl, lives in a privileged Toluca Lake family but feels trapped by her parents' values. One weekend, she rides her bike into a run down neighborhood, meeting a young black man selling lemonade. Thus begins a friendship between opposites, at least on the surface, but they learn they have more in common than they imagine. Told from each character's point of view in alternating chapters, we become involved in a gripping tale of two Americas where discontent and violence always lurk under the surface. When they erupt, no one is safe. Once Upon a Lie is both a family drama and a crime drama, as well as an exploration of interracial love, mother-daughter relationships, and redemption through courage.

388 pages, Paperback

First published March 15, 2016

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About the author

Michael R. French

26 books121 followers
#1 Amazon best selling author Michael French graduated from Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is an avid high-altitude mountain trekker, as well as a collector of first editions of twentieth-century fiction.

He has published twenty-four books, including fiction, young adult fiction, biographies, and art criticism. His novel, Abingdon’s, was a bestseller and a Literary Guild Alternate Selection. His young adult novel, Pursuit, was awarded the California Young Reader Medal.

The Reconstruction of Wilson Ryder was published January 2013.

Mountains Beyond Mountains was published April 2013.

Once Upon a Lie was published March 2016.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 61 reviews
Profile Image for Flor.
666 reviews143 followers
February 6, 2017
" I look at my story as I look at history. In our ever-changing universe, lives collide, and, like runaway planets, we just keep going"

I received this free ebook in exchange for an honest review. So thank you so much.

Well, what can I say about this book without spoiling it? First of all, you all shall know that it's full of drama and so many twists and turns that i literally didn't see coming with through every single chapter.

I got into this book without knowing what was about, the only thing i knew was that it told the story of a young white girl and an older black boy that involved secrets of both of their pasts. I think you should do too.

We see the world through the eyes of Alexandra and her pretentiously perfect family while feeling betrayal and helplessness by Jaleel's side and how it's that their story entwine together.

The difference between black and white people is really notable and it's so hard seeing how something as simple as a color can affect someone else's life in the worst possible way.

I like the book because it feels real, no one's perfect here. Every character has flaws and problems, they're not completely good nor bad. They're just normal people that make good or bad choices. But that's real, don't expect your typical happily ever after, just hope for the better because that's exactly how life works.

Profile Image for Yvonne.
1,393 reviews96 followers
June 27, 2017

Alexandra, a white girl living with her family in a very affluent area. Parents are wealthy, throw social parties at their lakeside house.

Jaleel, a black boy whose parents have been killed, wanted for a crime he didn't commit, living arrangements are in a squat.

Events bring these two different people together. Their backgrounds are poles apart, but they form a friendship based on trust and acceptance, not on their race, upbringing or financial status.

Alex has everything she wants, the daughter of a top lawyer, his wife an outgoing and beautiful socialite. All Alex's wardrobe choices are because her mother has deemed them acceptable for her daughter to be seen in, including make up, and to a certain point the items in her bedroom. When Alex decides she wants to be a bit of a rebel, she cycles to a rougher neighbourhood up the road. It's here she meets Jaleel selling lemonade, why would an 18-year-old sell lemonade ?

Jaleel has a story that shows the harsh realities of growing up in a racist world. Becomes evident when he is accused of murdering his father. The facts of the case are completely overlooked by the detective in charge, who decides what happened rather than heed what Jaleel has told him. Jaleel spends the next few years being anonymous, keeping his head down. He assumes another name so he can complete his education, selling lemonade is one way of being able to do this and live. Things are okay, until he forms a friendship with Alex.

This story is a murder and mystery of sorts. But in truth it is a look at how society views people who are different to themselves. This book explores various themes, such as ;- racial prejudice and inequality, prejudice, social and family dynamics, and of course racism. I was very surprise by this book in a good way, the topics discussed are woven very well into the story. There is a good cast of characters as well as a good story with some very good plot twists thrown in leading to a good conclusion.

This would be a good book for readers of general fiction, I would recommend this book.

I would like to thank Readers House for putting me in touch with this author and this book.
Profile Image for Jennifer Clausen-greene.
264 reviews2 followers
March 14, 2016
This is the first book I have read by Mr. French, but I was impressed. The book is fast paced with elements of love and betrayal coupled with faith that held my interest till the end. The characters Alex and Jaleel, are complex and well written. I also really enjoyed some of the other many elements within the book that the author tackles such as social injustices and family dynamics.
Profile Image for Peggy.
2,212 reviews37 followers
March 15, 2016

Right here was just what I have been needing the past week for a good read. Fast paced and never a dull moment. Easy to follow story line with amazing characters. Not sure if I want to classify it as a thriller or a mystery... But either way I loved this book!

*Received for an honest review*
Profile Image for Dawn Thomas.
842 reviews4 followers
February 3, 2017
Book Review: Once Upon A Lie by Michael French
Review by Dawn Thomas

388 Pages
Publisher: Terra Nova Books

Suspense, Murder, Legal, Trial, Family Dynamics

This is the story of Alexandra Baten and Jaleel Robeson. The book begins in the present time from Alex’s point of view. In the present time, she is working on a memoir but is having problems with the ending. She is meeting her mother for lunch and believes she cannot live up to her mother’s standards.

The story jumps to the past in the 1980s. Alex is a white girl from an affluent family in California. Her life is mundane and she craves excitement. Her father is a criminal defense attorney and her mother is known for throwing elaborate parties. When Alex and her brother go for a bicycle ride, she wants to cross a busy road to see what life looks like on the other side. Her brother refuses to go but Alex pushes on. She comes across a young black man, Jaleel using a false name, selling lemonade and they strike up a conversation. This is the beginning of their relationship.

Jaleel is an underprivileged black boy from a small town in Texas. At 12-years-old, Jaleel witness a murder suicide and is accused of the killing. He is sent to a juvenile facility while the police investigate the crime. He asks for permission to go to church but is denied and finds life in the facility difficult. He gets advice from an older boy named Marcus who ultimately helps him escape. He runs home grabs all the money he can find and takes the family car. He drives for hours hoping it will take the police longer to find him. He gets on a bus bound for California and meets Cornelius Appleton, also known as Dirick. When the bus stops, the police confront him but Dirick befriends him and tells the police the boy was traveling with him and they are mistaken. Dirick tells him to call a number to meet a friend. This is the beginning of Jaleel’s new life. Unfortunately, he must always look over his shoulder and blend in. This is hard for a young man who was very accomplished in school and sports.

The characters are very complex and believable. As the title infers, there is a lie behind every story. There are so many lies that at times, you forget which is the lie and which is the truth. This was the first book I read by this author but it will not be my last.
Profile Image for Lauren.
431 reviews5 followers
April 22, 2016
This is the story of two teenagers from completely different backgrounds. The first is Jaleel, an African American from a small town who witnesses his father kill his mother and then himself. The police decide that Jaleel is the murderer and rather than trying to clear his name, he flees. He meets a man on the bus who helps him out, providing him a new identity so we can start a new life in LA. Jaleel is a smart kid with a knack for baseball, which allows him to carry on in school and get accepted to a top tier university.

Then there's Alex. She comes from a privileged family, in a wealthy neighbourhood of LA. Her dad is a successful criminal lawyer, her mom a socialite that likes to put on the best party. Having an adventurous nature, Alex happens in to Jaleel's neighbourhood and they start talking. They hit it off and Alex wants to return as soon as she can, but she finds out that her mom is having an affair with her dad's best friend and eventually her dad finds out too. Alex convinces Jaleel to help her warn off her dad's friend, which puts them all in a bad situation.

French does a great job of writing these two teens. Alex felt particularly real to me. She had a great head on her shoulders for a teen, but she wasn't so mature or insightful that you couldn't believe her age. She was worried about some things that teens worry about, which added to her realness. Jaleel was a bit of a harder nut to crack because of how guarded he was from all the horrible things he had been through. I liked him, but it felt like there was less time dedicated to him so I couldn't get as much a feel for him.

The adults are another story. All of them are pretty pathetic. Alex's dad has no ethics or values, Alex's mom is the most selfish person in the world that completely abandons her kids, all the cops are blind to the clues in front of them and the lawyers are no better.

This interesting mix of characters makes for a page-turning novel. There are unexpected twists and turns through the whole thing and a very realistic ending. The only thing this book needs is a cover worthy of the story inside!
Profile Image for Amy Armstrong.
189 reviews38 followers
January 11, 2017
Alex, a teen from a wealthy family in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of L.A. meets Jaleel, a poor African American boy, on the other side of Cahuenga Boulevard and is immediately fascinated by his independence, optimism and impeccable taste in literature. What she doesn't know is he is also wanted for a double murder in Peartree, TX (which he didn't commit.) Alex and Jaleel become fascinated with each other's worlds, but danger lurks beneath the surface for both of them. For Jaleel, it's being on the run from the law for a crime he didn't commit. For Alex, it's a tangled web of dark family secrets that grow darker.

Once Upon a Lie has a lot of Dickensian charm for me. The characters are well developed, and definitely the greatest strength of this novel. It also is filled with chance meetings between people who are fated to meet again, and again. (The parallels go beyond that, but I would be spoiling the story for you if I shared.) French also makes some insightful observations about the limits of personal freedom in our supposedly free society (the story is set in the 1980s, but much of this is just as relevant now.) He touches on racial tensions and class as well, but the two often become conflated in this story since the main characters are from such different backgrounds.

Unlike Dickens, French has a much more concise style, and for the most part, this was clean work. I did spot a few anachronisms and minor usage errors, but since I was reading a digital galley, it's possible these have since been corrected.

Michael R. French has somehow never made it onto my radar, but once I started reading Once Upon a Lie, I found out that he has authored 20 books!

**This review is based on a digital galley that was provided for free by the publisher for review purposes. No form of compensation was provided for this review.**
Profile Image for Sobookinggood .
16 reviews2 followers
January 8, 2017
Once Upon a Lie is a crime thriller by Michael French, but really it is so much more. It tells the story of Jaleel a young African-American man on the run from a tragedy in his home and his fear that he will be blamed for it. He flees to LA, and although he lives as a squatter, Jaleel has managed to make himself into a successful student and all-star baseball player. By chance, he meets Alex, a privileged white teenage girl from a posh suburban neighborhood, who seems to have it all, but she doesn't, in fact, her life is falling apart. In her desperation to do something to save her family, she manages to get Jaleel mixed up in the mess forcing him on the run again.
In alternative narratives, the book details the trajectory of their lives through the 1980's to present day. From Alex's family falling apart and her move to the east coast and eventual enrollment at Stanford to Jaleel becoming somewhat of a profit in Canada and returning to the states.
While there is a definite murder mystery, thriller aspect to this book with great plot twists, it is also a book about relationships and their intricacies, redemption and survival of the human soul, as well as the complexities of political, racial and social inequalities. This book has so many levels and insights, making it not just an exciting read, but one that will stay with you long after you finish it.
Profile Image for Nadine.
237 reviews5 followers
March 15, 2016
This was my first book by Michael French and it did not disappoint. I was lucky to be an early reviewer, and I have to say that this was some really superb storytelling.

Though I kept in recent times my reading to move light subjects, this was a drastic change for me though not uncommon and I could not believe how brilliant it was in that 80's american backdrop.

For the more in depth review: http://www.amkindabusy.com/2016/03/15...
1 review
March 7, 2016
This is a good story and truly a page-turner! The characters are well drawn and complex; they are like people we know or have come across. I was lucky enough to have an advance copy and read it twice. It is that good. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Marta Tandori.
Author 11 books69 followers
March 25, 2017
Once Upon a Lie is a superbly-written coming of age novel by talented writer, Michael French, that chronicles the intersection and coupling of two young lives from opposite sides of the track.

The story begins with young Jaleel Robeson, a boy living a hardscrabble life in the small town of Peartree, Texas. Unlike many of his peers, Jaleel is a black boy who excels at everything he does and has high aspirations for himself, supported by a less-than-expressive father and doted upon by his proud mother. However, Jaleel’s promising future comes to a screeching halt one afternoon when he comes home from school to watch in horror as his father shoots his mother to death before turning the gun on himself. Instead of running from the scene of the crime as his father tells him to, Jaleel touches the gun and his parents’ bodies before calling the police. He’s sent to juvenile hall but it’s soon apparent that he’s the prime suspect in his parents’ deaths, despite his assertions that it had been a murder-suicide. When Jaleel realizes that it’s only a matter of time before he’s arrested, he seeks the help of an older boy to help him escape from juvie, which the boy does. Smart and resourceful, Jaleel manages to make it to Arizona before luck runs out and he’s intercepted by state police. By the grace of God and the help of Dirick, a benevolent do-gooder, he helps Jaleel escape to Los Angeles.

In an affluent area of Los Angeles called Toluca Lake, fifteen-year-old Alexandra (Alex) Baten has had a privileged upbringing, thanks to the ambitions of both her parents; her father, an ambitious defense attorney and her mother a social climber of the first order. Alex, along with her socially-hostile brother, Toby, both attend a private academy and live in a 12,000 square foot home, replete with its own swimming pool, lake and a rowboat. Despite living a privileged existence, Alex isn’t happy any more than her brother and after attempting to take her brother under her wing one Saturday afternoon, Alex finds herself crossing the road to a dilapidated area of North Hollywood where an eighteen-year-old Jaleel (now going by the name of Edward Montgomery) is selling lemonade. Despite her not having any money on her, he gives her lemonade and there’s an immediate connection between them which leads to an unlikely friendship that is about to change the course of their lives forever…

A dramatic juggernaut, Once Upon a Lie explores interracial relationships as well as the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter. Most importantly, it examines the huge inequity between the helplessness of the impoverished and the power of the rich. Jaleel, as a young boy, and as a man, is one of exceptional character who, despite doing his utmost, can’t seem to catch a break in life. Alex, despite her affluence, is nevertheless a likable protagonist. If there’s anything negative to say about her character, it’s the fact that she has heaped so much blame on her mother for the demise of their family without really assessing her father’s role in it. This seemingly one-sided opinion becomes a bit grating after a while but on the other hand, French shows us that our opinions and actions are rightly or wrongly, as the case may be, influenced by biased human emotion. The story, as it unfolds in alternating chapters told from the main protagonists’ points of view, is compelling as the author does a bang-up job of illustrating the inequities in life, based on one’s circumstance. Chock full of emotional upheaval, family drama and social injustice, Once Upon a Lie serves up a generous slice of dysfunctionality and injustice that leaves the reader desperately yearning for a happily ever after.
6 reviews2 followers
June 30, 2017
"Remembering his father, he knew at all costs to guard this paradise from his demons."
The quote, though purposely bearing a heavy biblical tone, is one of the protagonist's reflections that neatly mirror the realistic and disillusioned title of the book. Further, just as the two protagonists' lives unfold and converge in unexpected circumstances, they both seem unable to escape their families' and backgrounds' hold on them, while they never lose hope that one day they may free themselves.
In short, the book is a reflection on the idea of identity, of one's control of events and losing oneself, only to find an even deeper, indestructible self behind the veil of lies. The stories of Jaleel and Alexandra, of two seemingly unreconcilable personalities and backgrounds, are ones of discovery, suffering, loss of innocence, passion, and above all, character. The reader may savor the chaotic, all too-realistic and unpredictable storyline, while she may identify with different characters of the novel, all with their own angels and demons. The familiarity and humanity of the characters and their plights, though certainly not without some extraordinary stories and brisk action, are what drew me into the book and didn't let go.
I'd recommend "Once Upon a Lie" for a quick escape into the imagination of the author, but at the same time must warn that the vivid characters might stick around for a while after you close the book.
Profile Image for Divya Mahajan.
255 reviews20 followers
September 9, 2019
Once Upon a Lie is beautiful story of love, courage, teen rebellion, betrayal, racism, injustice ; it does not fall under only one genre. Call it a crime novel or a social novel or a love story ; it is a beautiful mix of many emotions,
This is the story of Alexandra and Jaleel two teenagers from very different strata of social life; one is a privileged white kid and other a poor black wanted for murders he did not commit.

Their meeting is like "like planets colliding from different solar systems."
"But remember we also talked about colliding planets. Sometimes they bounce off each other and go into their own orbits. It’s just the way it is.”
"In our ever-changing universe, lives collide, and, like runaway planets, we just keep going.does not fall under only one genre,"
That above is the summary of the tale.
How their paths collide and their meeting brings turmoil in their lives, How they face all that the life throws at them make for a very good read.
The best thing in this story is there no over dramatics or no emotion or character overwhelms.
This is a story of neither saintly or evil people but normal people where some make bad choices and others grimand some have to decide between family, friendship and loyalty for justice and their decisions not only effect themselves also those around them.
The story is so real that happens around all the time and the characters so believable and nobody's perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. It is as if the author has lived this tale.
A must read for everyone
I received this book free for a review.
Profile Image for AALBC.com (Troy Johnson).
8 reviews8 followers
May 19, 2017
"Full of twists, turns and surprises, Once Upon a Lie will keep you guessing until the very end. Though readable and engaging, the real complexity and intricacy is in the telling of the stories and the rich multilayered and multi-dimensional characters that French handily delivers. Jaleel’s story, brilliantly highlights the often unrelenting pitfalls many black men face, in a country too often willing to punish them for simply living while black. And while the ending is in many ways as bleak you would imagine, it is not tragic for whom you’d expect. In fact, I found the book to be nothing like I thought it would be, at almost every turn. And for that I applaud French. Highly recommended."
Read our complete review on AALBC.com.
Profile Image for Ghassan Samaha.
Author 1 book8 followers
March 14, 2018
Each word called on my nerves as my eyes scanned the pages with constant flow wondering when is the time to shed a tear or keep a smile. Comprehensive piece with complete story elements including a very strong PLOT that is looking simple while is sophisticated and feels endless when it is about to end...and the end by t whole is a story. Words or art explode in this novel, very impressed I am. Some stories you feel gets you to a higher ground. I say that truth is more than an magnet.
Profile Image for LuAnn.
259 reviews37 followers
April 9, 2016
Michael French has bitten off a mouthful in Once Upon a Lie. It would be easy to write a sweeping saga of one race's quest for equality and justice. Mr. French has taken the harder road, and told the simple story. And he has gotten me thinking about this issue more than I have in a long time.

Girl. Boy. White. Black. Two-parent family. Orphan. Rich. Desperately poor. Then there are the adults, who manage to mess up their lives and those of their children.

Alexandra has grown up never knowing want. Her family lives in a 12,000 square foot home. They have a swimming pool. She goes to an exclusive private academy (that's what the rich folks call 'school'). She wants to be a lawyer like her father.

Jaleel (aka Edward) lived in a tired neighborhood in a small Texas town. One night, with little warning, and in front of 13-year old Jaleel, his father shoots his mother in the head and then turns the gun on himself. The local police who came to investigate were actually trying to pin the father's death on young Jaleel. The police were white. Jaleel was black. In any case, since both his parents were dead, he had to go to a juvenile facility. The police continued to interrogate him. He made and executed a plan to escape with the help of a friend. And he does.

Four years into the future, he is living in a foreclosed home (that is, for all intents and purposes, abandoned), providing for himself, and doing a bang-up job in school, both academically and in sports. He has a scholarship to Princeton.

Then Alexandra discovers that her mother has been having an affair with her father's best friend. She talks Jaleel into putting a letter into the couple's mailbox warning the man off her mother (not signed, of course). Not too many days later, the man is found dead. So the police begin to wonder who dropped that note off and how sinister was its intention. And Alexandra's father is the top suspect.

Once Upon a Lie is definitely suspenseful, and more than a few moments are quite shocking. I would hazard a guess that the less you have to worry about in life (and I mean things like food and shelter), the more shocking these incidents will seem.

Different types of inequalities are all around us: white vs. people of color, rich vs. poor, those with higher education vs. those who dropped out of school, male vs. female, religion vs. other religions...the list is endless. The rights and privileges we claim for ourselves, we cannot deny to others unless we would be hypocrites.

I want my children to read this book also. I believe this could open some very important family or homeschool discussions. The story is structurally very well structured. If this book was an ice-skating competition, it would get the Gold Medal. The structure and the story are very well done.

Michael French has bitten off a mouthful in Once Upon a Lie. It would be easy to write a sweeping saga of one race's quest for equality and justice. Mr. French has taken the harder road, and that has made all the difference.

(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.)
Profile Image for * Maru * (FellInLoveWithABook).
172 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2017
Rating: 3 stars

This was an OK book for me. I did enjoy reading it, but it wasn't mind blowing. The story had a strong start, then it took a poor turn and the ending did not entirely satisfy me.
Although it kept me hooked enough so that I could finish it without any struggle, the last third of the book felt as a totally different story. It felt unfamiliar to me, so I didn't entirely connect with it.

I really liked the main female character, Alex. She is portrayed as a strong, persistent and intelligent girl, very mature for her age. I certainly appreciated that. The male character, Jaleel, was also very interestingly constructed and had a good arc throughout the story. However, I didn't feel the same way about Alex. By the end of the story she seemed to have lost all that was compelling about her.

Regarding the rest of the characters, some were well-developed, while others felt flat. One of the latter being Alex's mom, Gloria. I was expecting to find that there was more to her than it seemed, but it never happened. It was an empty character, in my opinion, whereas others were built in such a complex manner (like Alex’s father).

Also, there were a few things that made me uncomfortable. For example, there is a lot of blaming on the mother for the problems in the family, specially coming from her daughter, without ever acknowledging the part that the father played in it. And this goes on until the very end of the book. At some point, mental health issues are implied to be a burden for the other members of the family. And on this same note, Alex's younger brother's mental health struggles are dismissed as a secondary problem, as if they expected it to solve itself out – which incredibly, it seems to happen. But one of the biggest issues for me was the justification of domestic violence. And though this is coming from the mind of a 15-year-old, it is never corrected throughout the story.

The passage of time was confusing. Sometimes, from one chapter to the next, a few days had passed, other times, months, or even years. I couldn’t tell until I was well into the chapter.

As mentioned before, the last portion of the book felt different. Without introducing any new elements, suddenly, things work out too well. Very hard to believe from my perspective as a reader.

What started as a gripping story, featuring strong issues (inequality, failure of the justice system, prejudice), ended up falling short. I would, nevertheless, read more from the author, as the writing style was very appealing.
Profile Image for Adrienne Way.
38 reviews9 followers
June 11, 2017
I didn’t want this story to end. Do you ever have it where you procrastinate finishing a story because you want the story to continue? This was one of those stories for me. The book really brings into question what lies are and why people tell them, whether that is to save others or to protect the life you have created for yourself. What makes a person “good?”, those that feel guilt when they lie? Or those that lie knowing they have a good reason? Leading into a grey area that “truth is a matter of opinion”. The two main protagonists were inspiring in very different ways. For me personally I related to Alex’s story more than that of Jaleel, although the only similarity I share with her is that I am a rather academic, white female. I found her story relatable without being cliché. I felt I could really relate to her story of figuring out who you are as an individual without the guidance of your parents or others telling you who you should be. I also found this theme in Jaleel at the beginning of his narrative with the new names, whether they are given to him or something of his own creation. It was only when he decided to be true to himself without any lies or outside forces demanding he be someone else. This idea of finding the true self without impending forces is something that this generation in particular are figuring out this journey for themselves. Even more evidence of this is during Jaleel’s POV in which he says, “’ People spoke endlessly about the American dream, as if it was something they were entitled to…. You just worked your ass off and hoped for a few breaks.’” It wasn’t only the ideas of these characters that made them connect with the audience but the strong voices of the characters as well. They both have strong opinions and ideals that don’t always link up but you can clearly identify the reasoning behind these thoughts based on the clear past that is laid out for us. The circular motion of the story was well executed and left a good sense of rhythm and completion to the telling of the story. And with the telling of this story I learned one thing, the truth can destroy as much as it can heal. I enjoyed this book and hope to hide more of this author's work.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Cindy Roesel.
Author 1 book61 followers
May 12, 2016

"Discontent and violence lurks under the surface - when they erupt, no one is safe." Once Upon A LIE

as an writer and author, but ONCE UPON A LIE needed a really tough editor with a red sharpie.

Michael French tells the story of interracial love in the thought-provoking novel, ONCE UPON A LIE (Terra Nova Books) in the landscape of the 1980s. Two unlikely people are brought into each other's lives putting them in danger.

Jaleel is a bright black eighteen-year old. He's fled his small Texas town, falsely accused of murdering his father. He changes his name, moves to Los Angeles and hopes to somehow turn his intellect and street smarts into success.

Alexandra Baten is rich white sixteen-year old Valley girl, living in Toluca Lake who has everything, but that's still not enough. She's tired of her parents especially her socialite mother. One day, she meets Jaleel and on the surface, it would appear they have nothing in common, but opposites do attract. She knows her mother would freak if Alexandra was even talking to Jaleel, but she goes on to ask him a favor.

This sets the stage for French's family crime drama. The narratives alternate between Jaleel and Alexandra. The story arc is unexpected, but at four-hundred pages it's easy to get lost in the prose. Racial injustice is a profound premise for a novel, but I believe ONCE UPON A LIE lost focus of the point it was attempting to make. I would question how many edits the novel was put through, because I feel it's easily one hundred and fifty pages too long. French obviously has a successful career

Michael has set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for both characters, Alex and Jaleel so you can contact them. I checked the sites out and they make the reading experience fuller.
Profile Image for Casey Williams.
85 reviews5 followers
April 26, 2017
' As small or large as your destiny might be, you alone were its driver.'

This story is about two young people who's lives went down hill and they are just trying to get it back on track and figure out their true selves and what they are made to do in life.

I went into this book blind not knowing much about it and what it was going to throw at me, but I was pleasantly surprised and loved it.

It's very hard not to give away any spoilers in this review but in this book we see the world through two different character's perspectives; Alex, who lives in a nice house, goes to a good school and has a loving family, and then Jaleel, who we feel heartache and helplessness for.

It's notable in the story of the difference between black and white people and how someone's colour can affect ones lives.

The only thing that seemed to bug me in this book is the relationship between Alex and Jaleel, and how confusing it could sometimes be.

Michael French's style of writing though, is so beautifully poetic (at least it seems to me anyway), but so easy to read that it just had me drawn to the story. The book was filled with drama and twists in every chapter, and after each turn of the page you will not be able to stop devouring this great read.

Overall I think everyone should give this book a go and fill your mind with Michael's beautiful and (what most parts seemed to me as 'inspirational') writing.
Definitely a 4.5 stars for me!

'It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.’
Profile Image for Gladinell.
87 reviews18 followers
January 13, 2017
I received this book for an honest review. Finally I made the time and read it. The book was not what I was expecting. As soon as I started reading it I was hook. The story goes from the present to the past and it ends in the present again. I love how the story never gets boring with unnecessary details. The characters in this book are unique, Alex and Jaleel are the main characters and let me tell you their lives are very complicated. For me Alex was the most honest of all the characters. Even though her life was suppose to be one of wealth and fortune, she was very realistic and down to earth. Now Jaleel was never deal a good hand in his life, but he was very positive and smart. I'm going to try not to spoiled to much but I'm not completely happy with Jaleel, but at least he was honest about everything in his life. I love their relationship and how they treated each other. ......

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Profile Image for Julie.
52 reviews
March 23, 2016
An interesting story about how chance meetings can change someone's life.
Jaleel had a horrible childhood while Alexandra (Alex) was raised in luxury. They meet when 15 year old Alex rides her bike out of her rich neighborhood and comes upon 19 year old Jaleel. They seem to be pretty much complete opposites but are good for each other.

The main portion of the book takes place in the 1980s but we are brought forward so we're aware of where they ended up. I just finished this book today so I haven't had a chance to check out the Facebook pages the author apparently has set up. That's clever and I look forward to it.

I won this book here on Goodreads.com. The author himself mailed it, dated it and signed it. I usually "recycle" books by donating them to the local free book box but I think I'll keep this one.
Profile Image for Sage Adderley.
Author 3 books83 followers
April 1, 2016
I read a lot of books and I can't remember the last time a book has left me with so many feelings. Michael French is a wonderful writer. I felt he really placed me into the scenes. I found myself cringing through some of the encounters Jaleel faced as a young black man. It hurt my heart. And while Alex comes from an extremely privileged family, I did like her very much. She maintained compassion and humility throughout the novel.

These two characters connect in a super emotional way. Through drama and corruption, they both stay together and grow with each other. Alex faces just as much pain as Jaleel which I think shows despite where you come from, everyone faces similar trials.

I appreciate that the author didn't end this deep story in a happily ever after kind of way. It feels real. It haunts you in the best way possible.
Profile Image for emily.
107 reviews
May 18, 2016
Once Upon A Lie is about two young adults, Jaleel and Alexandra "Alex," and how their young love came to life. Both come from completely opposite lives. Alex has the perfect family facade, while Jaleel is an orphan. They face many emotions-betrayal, love, and courage.

Once Upon A Lie is absolutely amazing! I was faced with so many emotions involving both characters. I felt horrible about Jaleel's situation while shocked by Alex's. I couldn't get enough, each page pulled me deeper into their story. I really enjoyed the alternating chapters, it made the book more complex. Also I'm a sucker for well-written multiple character perspectives.

I felt that situations that I wanted to happen in the future happened, and I loved it. There were many surprises that shocked me. They were hidden perfectly and jumped out at the right moment. Once Upon A Lie is great! Five stars!
Profile Image for Colette.
185 reviews95 followers
July 16, 2016
4.5 stars. This is a unique story and a uniquely-written book. I haven't read anything quite like it. It felt like it was missing just a little something that kept it from being great instead of just very good, but I have no idea what that would be. All I can say is that I was engrossed from the very beginning and didn't want to put it down. Each character was complex and fascinating, yet also entirely believable. I loathed one female character so much that I wanted to slap her, but I see that as a sign of how deeply invested I was. This is a moving, intriguing story that left me thinking deeply about many complex issues and, despite the book's substantial length, left me wanting more.
Profile Image for Brian.
312 reviews14 followers
May 19, 2016
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Absolutely stunning. This story is detailed and attentive to not only the characters but also the reader. Mr. French has woven together the lives of so many people and shown just how the surrounding we are born into and the interactions of child to parent and visa versa truly handicap our lives.

You, as the reader, will be tormented, amazed, and then confused, then think you have it all figured out but as the story moves from player to player, you will be wrong. You will not, truly not, want to stop reading.

An highly recommended read.

March 31, 2016
This book, Once Upon A Lie, reminded me a lot of Gone Girl but I honestly found it even more riveting, both with the plot twists (you will NOT be able to anticipate) and the depth and interactions of the characters. I read this in just four sittings, starting around midnight, after I put my two young children to bed. It is rare for me to find a book compelling enough to stay up late into the night reading, but I just couldn't put this book down! This book will make an incredible movie, but first people should enjoy it as a thriller/mystery page turner.
May 23, 2016
What a ride! French is a fantastic story teller and has included everything I love about fiction in this tale; it has a layered plot with surprising turns, endearing characters, clever dialogue, and passages that made me laugh and points that made me think. "Once upon a Lie" deftly addresses race, class, relationships, and morality with a fast-moving narrative that grips you from the beginning to the end. I heartily recommend this gem of a book and can't wait to read more of French's work.

Profile Image for Cathy.
195 reviews2 followers
August 8, 2016
I received this book by entering a Goodreads drawing.

This is my first book by Mr. French and I was not disappointed. The writing was very good so the story was easy to get into and the character descriptions were clear and concise. I had no trouble getting into the story. I liked how the book was broken into Alex and Jaleel sections so the reader could keep up with what was happening to the main characters as the story progressed. The handling of the murder and the racial challenges of the 80's was very well done. I would recommend this book to all readers.
Profile Image for Art.
7 reviews3 followers
February 24, 2016
I was fortunate to get an advanced copy of the book and read it in two sittings. This is a fascinating page-turner. The complicated relationship between both characters is unpredictable. The elements of social injustice are realistic and gripping. Having read French's previous novel, The Reconstruction of Wilson Ryder, it too picks up on themes of families and difficult relationships in a very real and relatable fashion. Highly recommended.
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