Little White Lies – Jennifer Lynn Barnes – Freeform – Published 6 November 2018
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.
I would usually steer away from books about Debutante balls and the drama that might accompany such events, but Little White Lies is written by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, so instead it became one of my most anticipated reads of 2018. And it did not disappoint. Only Barnes could create such a setting and accompany it with breathless tension and mystery, expertly combined with humour and good old insult-laden compliments.
Sawyer Taft has never known who her father is – her mother refused to speak of him or the life she left behind. But when Sawyer’s maternal grandmother makes a sudden appearance, she promises both answers and a whole lot of money if Sawyer will agree to live with her for nine months and become a Debutante. While trying to find her own answers about her mother’s past and her unknown father, Sawyer becomes entangled in another mystery, all while juggling brunch, dress fittings, and the special kind of horror that is a spa day.
Little White Lies is both a fun contemporary novel and a mystery. It took the majority of the book for me to figure out what on earth was going on in this story. What was the mystery about, how would it all play out? I knew there were clues along the way and things would slowly fit into place, but the big picture didn’t become clear until the very last part of the book. And that’s when my interest was really captured. That ‘ah ha’ moment was awesome, and the way it all fit so neatly together was clever, and very much Barnes’ style.
Little While Lies carries Barnes’ signature writing style – classy, clever, witty and wholly unique. I instantly, instantly loved Sawyer. There is such a thing as love at first sight, or perhaps in this case it is love at first line, because when she threatens a rude customer with wire cutters and archaic torture methods I knew she and I would get along just fine. Her dry sense of humour is the perfect contrast to the sugar-sweetness of her new companions.
The flow and tension of the story is helped with before and after sections, as well as artwork from a very interesting Tumblr page. The artwork was not included in my ARC but explanation of its inclusion is just one of the many clues that are revealed as the story unfolds.
While I didn’t enjoy Little White Lies as much as I love Barnes’ The Naturals series, I know readers will love this mix of mystery and cotillion, secrets and ball gowns, devious plans and hairdos, opening Barnes’ writing to new and old fans alike.
As to that ending, well, I even wrote to the publicity department to check that my copy is a complete and accurate representation of the final book. I never heard back and so I must assume that it is. Which means Little White Lies has one hell of an ending. Yet readers are still left with a sense of conclusion, even if they (as I am) will be desperate for the second book in what promises to be a very exciting, unique, and clever series.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Detective and mystery stories, Debutantes, parents, heritage, money, family, friendship, blackmail.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references.
Published: 6 November 2018 by Freeform.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 400 pages.