A Journey

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review: "The Lying Game" by Sara Shepard

(NOTE: Catch all the greatness of Sara Shepard's new novel [ and her other series, Pretty Little Liars ]on the silver screen, coming soon to ABC Family!)

Putting it simply, Sara Shepard's The Lying Game is one of the most well-crafted and eerie YA novels I've had the opportunity to read. It's wonderfully paced, has distinct, realistic (and creepy!) characters, and doesn't seem to rely on convention to move readers through its uniquely-framed plot.

It's exactly that, the story's point of view, which clamped onto my hand right at the beginning and refused to let go. Shepard's identical twin sister characters, Emma Paxton and Sutton Mercer, were the perfect vehicle by which to fling me into their parallel universes, much as they were both thrown into each others. (Hello, first kick-butt theme, you rock!) Sutton Mercer, killed somehow, must, for her own strange, post-death sanity (a fascinating idea worth much more time than a single review), know how it happened, because as she says throughout the novel, she has no idea. Twin sister Emma, searching for her own peace, finds herself (no pun intended) looking for Sutton, whom she has never met. As it is said twins go, each cannot live (literally, in this case) without the other.

The way Shepard molded and blended these two characters' thoughts together throughout the pages seemed a perfect technique to keep me riveted to the action--to want to figure out the truth, just as they did. The idea that Sutton could only see what Emma was seeing was a huge plus for the mysterious feelings I absolutely could not shake, right up until the very end. This was yet another tool of many which Shepard created, in my experience of the story, that made the story as masterful and deliciously-unnerving as it was.

As nearly all stories are journeys (in one fashion or another), The Lying Game was no exception. Thank goodness for that! My reading experience found Shepard's novel, in its softer undertones, to be special in that she creates three simultaneous journeys: Emma's, Sutton's, and finally mine, the reader. In constant flux, these three journeys are brought together, torn apart, then brought together again in a brilliant fashion I've not come across in other novels.

To that end, Sutton Mercer's journey is our first. She is (SPOILER ALERT!!) dead--the end of a journey most of us don't truly understand. Her journey is incomplete, not having been given the deeply-rooted desire in human nature--to know why, to be certain of the end of her story. As individuals, we must know, or at least be given a chance to figure it out. Characters, like us, can bear many things, but doubt is not something we take lightly. Shepard's characters are exactly the same.

Emma Paxton is on a journey herself, perhaps--strangely--to find exactly that. Shepard masterfully defines this idea through Sutton, who, remember, is Emma's twin sister, the (suspected) epitome of her own self. A authorial choice which would seem simple, and yet its impact on my reading experience was phenomenal. Sutton represents something far more tangible, familiar to Emma--a sense of herself she lost, or never had, because of her foster child life. She must get it back. Enter, Sutton Mercer.

From the opening sentence, both girls' lives collide, though Emma isn't ever conscious of Sutton's presence nearby (again, a fascinating idea!). Through their intricately woven journeys, each is able to find pieces of some kind of freedom in the ways that they must, in order to survive in the only way they can: together, as one.

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