reviews

One Perfect Lie: Lisa Scottoline

One Perfect Lie
Genre: Domestic thriller
Pages: 351
Published: 2017
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Gryffindor

In a small town, there is a threat looming that nobody knows about, especially three members of the the high school baseball team in a quiet Pennsylvania suburb.

Susan loves supporting her son Raz in his role as starting pitcher, but worries about how he is coping with the loss of his father. Mindy, the wife of a surgeon, has a comfortable life but isn’t aware of the things that her husband and son Evan are keeping from her. And Heather is proud of her son Jordan but worries about his relationships with other boys on the team.

Then there’s Chris. A newcomer to town, he’s taking on the roles of history teacher and baseball coach. He looks like the perfect addition, but everything about him is a lie. He’s only here to use some of the baseball players as a pawn in a bigger plan. So what is he really trying to accomplish? And how far will he go to get what he wants?

I initially picked up this book because it looked like there were lots of interesting conflicts to pick from. It’s really hard to put THIS MUCH in a book and have it fit together and flow, but for the most part Scottoline succeeds in doing so.

You’d think this would be about baseball. It’s not a baseball book; if you’re hoping for one you may be disappointed. Readers should go in with an open mind. Instead, there are genuinely surprising twists and plot turns where you don’t expect them (very well pulled off might I add), leading to a book that changes currents. In fact, the book can arguably be split into three sections or themes. The first section focuses on school relations, the second is about parent-child relationships and secrets, and the third actually gets somewhat legal and semi-political. By an amateur writer this could become a trainwreck, but Scottoline somehow found a way to merge these ideas together cleanly. The plot itself was very intricate and well-thought out. It’s clear that she knew the material she was dealing with. And it never slowed down. Stakes are raised early on when Chris arrives at the high school to start a teaching position.

The characters were interesting and Scottoline writes them and their dialogue well. From the teachers to the students, everyone had a personality. I especially found myself emotionally invested in Chris and was disappointed that he was just involved in some sort of plot. Surprisingly, I liked him in the teaching and coaching role. As he became a beloved coach to the players and ended up actually caring about them, I found myself hoping that the situation would work out. He was by far the most interesting character. This universe also seems pretty authentic, from the roles of mothers to the high school interactions to the farming. Scottoline is extraordinarily good at creating detail to bring a place to life. Whether it’s hints of a character’s social class, a place to live, or even a scene in a classroom, she can place you right in the setting she has set up.

The one characterization I did take issue with was Abe’s. Allow me to go back to a guide I wrote for a previous book I reviewed this year:

HOW TO WRITE GAY CHARACTERS
BY FICTIONISTAS UNITE

1. Follow the exact same character-creating process you use for straight people. 
2. Make them attracted to people of the same gender.

I bring this up because Abe is a complete caricature. He is flamboyant. He is outgoing. He uses terms like “chichi.” He loves fashion. He is basically the exact same gay side character I saw in the novel for which I wrote my how-to. How in this day and age are we still writing gay people as cardboard cutouts? It was so stereotypical my eyes were rolling. I liked the guy, but he’s the same gay guy we see everywhere. Come on, writers of America. I don’t take points off for this because it’s so minor in the book, but still. Can this stop?

Back to the plot. In addition to the kids’ lives, there are their parents’ stories as well. In these cases, I like to give the book a chance and see where they’re heading, especially in stories like this where you don’t know quite how everything connects right away. But I did find that by the end some of the parents’ stories really weren’t necessary and were maybe put in to throw the reader off the trail. The book does spend too much time on Heather’s personal problems, and I think Susan’s parts could have been eliminated entirely. Their stories also leave some loose ends untied. Heather seems like she is trying to hide from others but this is never explained. Neither are Susan’s sons’ troubles with stealing. Perhaps there was going to be more that just got left out of the book? So maybe there was too much packed into the novel.

Still, they don’t linger on the parents lives for quite as long. The action certainly makes up for this; looming terror is around every corner. I didn’t really know where things were going, but that wasn’t a bad thing. I was instead impressed at how things came together. It’s more than just suburban baseball; this is a story that garners national attention, so it’s pretty fast paced. And there’s always enough going on because of the various points of view of the kids and their families. Of course, dealing with missing fathers is just one of those issues which mercifully isn’t lingered on too long. But there are also things like competition, sexting scandals, and that play a role in the situation and a role in the boys’ lives.

I was mostly disappointed in how the ending was handled…not in how things ended, but how it was written. I’ve said before how I don’t like how so many authors feel the need to include people falling in love in their novels when the book doesn’t need a love story. Here, there is a considerable amount of time spent exploring the “romance” between Heather and Chris. These characters spend a grand total of maybe fifteen/twenty minutes together in the book. I understand that the book was hinting at how Chris was missing having a normal life, but the book almost forgets about the conflict at hand entirely to focus on their feelings for each other once the big plot point is settled. They just weren’t interesting enough because they’re still pretty much strangers. It didn’t warrant a lot of time, especially considering all else that was going on. SPOILER PARAGRAPH BELOW……

The characters’ behavior also struck me as weird in the last chapters. Near the end, Chris actually calls Heather to apologize for lying, and Heather is actually mad at him despite the fact that it was his job to lie…and despite the fact that these people should not be anywhere close to a point in their “relationship” where they’re talking on the phone. And then there’s her anger at his “lying.” Is Heather just that immature? It was a very chick lit-ty last chapter which I thought was disappointing. The author should have spent more time on the parents’ reactions, trial highlights, and how things turned out for the kids rather than manufactured romantic drama that felt rather forced. Speaking of which, we actually barely saw the kids’ reactions and how things affected them. I would much rather have seen an ending focused on the baseball team considering that’s who the book was trying to focus on.

***end of spoilers

This forced romance wasn’t Storyteller bad, but it wasn’t necessary all the same.

Despite some little issues with the writing that really don’t take up that much time, One Perfect Lie is a great thrill ride for readers looking for high-intensity stakes. With plotlines that are well thought out and drama that rarely stops, it’s an exciting adventure that might leave you wondering what’s really going on in those nice houses. (Especially if you’re me; I’m pretty sure the book takes place 30-ish minutes from my own house.) But it’s more than that: the characters make for an exciting tale you won’t forget. This was a fun one.

4.5 stars

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