Book Talk: Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn BarnesLittle White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published by Freeform on November 6, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
AmazonThe Book Depository

Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother's "society" might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father's identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn't expect to find is friendship, but as she's drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn't the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother's glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer's search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning.

Set in the world of debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines a charming setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off.

Subject-matter-wise, I wasn’t so sure about Little White Lies, but Jennifer Lynn Barnes is on my auto-try list (it’s the auto-buy’s much less expensive cousin). Debutante stuff isn’t my favorite as a general rule, though obviously there are exceptions; I love the setting in theory, but the amount of girl hate that often comes part and parcel with it doesn’t really work for me. Then there’s a fact that it’s a mystery to contend with. Little White Lies is a fast-paced, entertaining blend of Gossip GirlGilmore Girls, and Barnes’ The Fixer.

I read Little White Lies in one sitting basically, interrupted by prior plans to go to the movies. That’s not something I get to do very frequently anymore, and it’s always great when it happens. Because of my frustration about the lack of series completion, I’d forgotten how good Barnes’ writing was, but that immediately struck me when I started Little White Lies. The narration’s acerbic, clever, and funny.

Seriously, I can’t help wondering if maybe some of these elements were going to be in a third Fixer book, because the vibe’s pretty similar, though Little White Lies is much more comedic. Sawyer, though, reminds me a lot of Tess. They’re not the same girl by any means, but they’re both scary smart and indefatigable in the face of mysteries. Like Tess, Sawyer’s not particularly cuddly but she also goes to bat for anyone being ill-treated just because she can’t stand watching bullies win.

Sawyer’s “been raised” by her single mom all of her life, though truthfully it’s more like Sawyer took care of them both. Her mother struggles to hold down her job in a bar and has a tendency to run off temporarily with men. This basic family set up happens a lot in YA, but what’s interesting here is that Sawyer accepts this and loves her mother anyway. Admittedly, there’s a reason for that; a basic level of stability has been maintained consistently through her childhood. I’m always a sucker for atypical dynamics, and their relationship was complex and loving, albeit complicated.

At the opening of the novel, Sawyer’s working as a mechanic, having gotten her GED. Her mom’s just gone on a trip with a new guy she met at the bar when a woman appears at her apartment with an offer she can’t refuse. That woman is her grandmother, Lillian Taft, society matron and unshakable badass, who Sawyer has never met. Her offer: half a million dollars in a trust to pay for college and anything else in exchange for nine months living with the Tafts and doing the debutante thing.

Despite her skepticism about her mother’s family, about whom she’s never heard good things, and her disinterest in high society, Sawyer’s a practical girl and she signs up. There’s something generally pretty implacable and realistic about Sawyer, even when she fully commits to bad idea plans, like abetting an accidental kidnapping or investigating to figure out who knocked up her mom. The plot goes to some pretty ridiculous places, and I love the way that it didn’t go where I thought it was going to at all, because that does not happen to me frequently.

Given how unputdownable I found this book, it actually moves at a fairly leisurely pace until closer to the end. Sawyer’s narrative voice and the technique of flashing (very briefly) to the prison scene and then back keep things entertaining even when the mystery plot hasn’t activated (which actually doesn’t happen until maybe halfway?). That’s a tough thing to pull off, but it really worked here.

In fact, I’m impressed how much I enjoyed this book, considering that it truly is a high society mystery. There’s shockingly little romance in this book, though maybe it shouldn’t be shocking given Barnes has done that before. The character arcs are pretty great, though, especially among some of the secondary characters, which is impressive. Everyone’s more complex than they seem at first glance.

The existence of Little White Lies doesn’t totally fix my need for more Fixer books, but it does make dealing with the dark truth that I won’t be getting one slightly more tolerable.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

2 responses to “Book Talk: Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes”

  1. Totally agree! I loved THE FIXER books and will read anything Barnes writes, but the debutante stuff made me nervous. I blazed through this in one sitting too.
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  2. Lisa says:

    This review makes me want to read this book even more! November is going to be an amazing book month 🙂

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