Perusing reviews of Lies My Girlfriends Told Me, it appears the books is a bit polarizing among readers. There are some who call is “ground breaking” while others are quick to dismiss it as your standard teen angst novel.
My thoughts on the subject are that yes, the novel is full of teen relationship angst and that it’s not necessarily as ground breaking as some reviewers would have you believe.
When Alix’s girlfriend Swanee passes away of cardiac arrest during a run, Alix’s entire world is shattered. But not nearly as much as when Alix sneaks into her girlfriend’s room and discovers her cell phone full of voice-mails and text messages from LM. Seems that Swanee had more than her fair share of secrets, including the fact that she was in a relationship with not only Alix, but also this mysterious LM.
Driven by a need to find answers, Alix quizzes Swanee’s younger sister, Joss for clues and eventually begins to answer back the mysterious LM’s texts. Alix eventually founds out that LM is Liana, a cheerleader at another school who Swanee assured Alix she’d broken up with when they got together. Confused, Alix seeks out Liana, wanting to find answers and possibly get some closure. But things get complicated when Alix and Liana share a connection, becoming friends and possibly more.
Lies My Girlfriend Told Me has teenage angst that comes off the page (or in my case through your earbuds) in waves. Alix’s conflict about the Swanee she thought she knew and the real Swanee helps drive the novel and helped keep me interested during the first half of the book. The story shows us just how manipulative Swanee really was (she gets Alix to drop all of her friends, see her parents as terrible people for wanting her to help out around the house and not buying her a car, etc.) and it’s a nice character arc for Alix to slowly realize that while she loved Swanee, that Swanee wasn’t necessarily the great girlfriend in the world. We also see Alix come to realize that Swanee’s family has some fundamental problems that she wasn’t aware of when Swanee was alive (Swanee’s mom reveals that she encouraged her daughter to date as much as possible while she was young. It feels almost as if Mom gave her approval of how manipulative Swanee and her sister Joss are of other’s feelings).
A little teen angst can be a good thing, but there are times when it feels like Lies My Girlfriend Told Me seems to be pouring it on. Early on, I realized that Swanee was being emotionally manipulative of both Alix and Liana (she convinces Liana to buy an expensive engagement ring, promising that she’ll buy one as well while she has no intention of doing so. She also promises both parties they will go to college together and have their own apartment). Seeing both girls come to terms with this is the novel’s most interesting character arc and one that is well earned by the Julie Anne Peters.
Where the novel stumbles is in its portrayal of Alix (at times). There were moments I wanted to reach through the ear buds and tell her to wake up and realize that she was being a perfect little snot to her friends, family and those who care about her. I get that Peters is trying to help us understand just how much Swanee manipulated Alix, but there are times when Alix’s feeling of entitlement became a bit cloying and annoying.
There’s also the elephant in the room of that fact that Lies My Girlfriend Told Me is a main-stream young adult novel that centers on romantic relationships between people of the same sex. There were times as I listened to the story that the story worked and there were time I felt like this book was being as manipulative to readers (or potential readers) as Swanee was to Alix and Liana. Part of it comes from a lack of really significant or interesting character development. I kept finding myself hoping for a bit more development or understanding of what made Swanee the way she was or why these girls found her so irresistible. Unfortunately, we don’t get any answers to this.
And while Alix does go on a bit of a journey, it doesn’t necessarily seem like an earned one. Nor does her change feel natural enough or reasonable enough to support some of her parents’ decisions (allowing her to take care of her little brother for the weekend, buying her a car) in the novel’s closing pages. It felt like this was a bit of wish fulfillment on the part of Alix and Peters with a sudden turnaround in Alix’s life that isn’t earned. And don’t get me started on how easily forgiven Alix is once Liana learns the truth about how they met.
All in all, what started out as a novel with an interesting hook turns out to be little more than a standard YA angst and wish fulfillment novels. It’s not as ground-breaking as some would want you to believe, but it’s not entirely worth dismissing. Go into it with lowered expectations and you’ll probably enjoy most of what Peters is trying to do here.