Lies Like Poison – Chelsea Pitcher – Margaret K. McElderry Books – Published 10 November 2020
Poppy, Lily, and Belladonna would do anything to protect their best friend, Raven. So when they discovered he was suffering abuse at the hands of his stepmother, they came up with a lethal plan: petals of poppy, belladonna, and lily in her evening tea so she’d never be able to hurt Raven again. But someone got cold feet, the plot faded to a secret of the past, and the group fell apart.
Three years later, on the eve of Raven’s seventeenth birthday, his stepmother turns up dead. But it’s only belladonna found in her tea, and it’s only Belladonna who’s carted off to jail. Desperate for help, Belle reaches out to her estranged friends to prove her innocence. They answer the call, but no one is prepared for what comes next.
Now, everyone has something to lose and something equally dangerous to hide. And when the tangled web of secrets and betrayal is finally unwound, what lies at its heart will change the group forever.
I love, love YA mysteries and Lies Like Poison was just as compelling, twisty, and intriguing as expected but totally surprised me with its complex romance and relationships.
Belle and Poppy had a plan to save their friend Raven from his evil stepmother. Circumstances forced them to abandon their plan. Now, years on, Raven’s stepmother has been murdered – using Belle and Poppy’s plan. Only one other person knew and now Lily, Poppy (aka Jack) and Belle must decipher the secrets of the past and present if they are to find the person responsible and clear their own names.
The romance in this book is less like a love triangle and more like a triangle crossed with a venn diagram. I’m not going to label any of the characters or their relationships – they are just figuring out who they are and what they want and labels aren’t helpful here, but suffice to say they all fall under the LGBTQIA+ banner. A chunk of the story is actually devoted to the characters going through their ‘coming out’ process as well as becoming more accepting of themselves and each other.
Just like the romances, the story and characters are complex and overlap. The truth according to Lily, the truth according to Belle, the truth according to Jack (Poppy). None of them seem to know what is the truth and are working on assumptions, overheard words, feelings and gut reactions. It all makes for a very compelling and intriguing story. Just when I thought I had it figured out, more information would be shared, another perspective learnt and everything would change again.
This was darker than I expected (though I knew it was about murder, so not really sure why I was expecting something light) but the characters are each facing a form of trauma, have complex family situations that span neglect, abuse, and control. There are layers of secrets that have to be peeled back. And underlying everything is a theme of belonging, acceptance and family – perhaps not the family you are born with or even give, but the family that is made and fought for.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Murder, crime, mystery, secrets, romance, friendship, LGBTQIA+, coming out, family.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Murder, death. Sexual references, implied sexual scenes with some details,. Violence. References to abuse, control and neglect. Drug and alcohol use and references. Occasional course language, sh** (11), bi*** (1).
Published: 10 November 2020 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 304 pages.