The Lies We Tell
From the author of How We Fall Apart comes a tense and thrilling YA about what it means to not feel safe in the places we call home.
Anna Xu moves out of her parent's home and into the dorms across town as she starts freshman year at the local, prestigious Brookings University. But her parents and their struggling Chinese bakery, Sweetea, aren't far from campus or from mind, either. At Brookings, Anna wants to keep up her stellar academic performance and to investigate the unsolved campus murder of her childhood babysitter. She also finds a familiar face–her middle-school rival, Chris Lu. The Lus happen to be the Xu family's business rivals since they opened Sunny's, a trendy new bakery on Sweetea's block. Chris is cute but still someone to be wary of... until a vandal hits Sunny's and Anna matches the racist tag with a clue from her investigation.
Anna grew up in this town, but more and more she feels like maybe she isn't fully at home here–or maybe it's that there are people here who think she doesn't belong. When a very specific threat is made to Anna, she seeks out help from the only person she can; Anna and Chris team up to find out who is stalking her and take on a dangerous search into the hate crimes happening around campus. Can they root out the ugly history and take on the current threat?
The Lies We Tell is a social activism/we all belong here anthem crossed with a thriller and with a rivals-to-romance relationship set on a college campus.
Midwestern teenagers and academic rivals join forces to solve a cold case while navigating the aftermath of a hate crime in this intense thriller by Zhao (How We Fall Apart). After returning to Michigan from a summer with extended family in Beijing, Anna Xu starts her freshman year at Brookings University. Best known as the elite alma mater of many of Anna's affluent white neighbors, it's also where her former babysitter, East-Asian-cued Melissa Hong, was murdered in a seven-year-old cold case that Anna, hoping for closure, resolves to covertly investigate. As she balances college life with her inquiry, she reconnects with childhood rival Chris Lu, whose family soon opens Sunny's, a bakery in direct competition with the Xus' own struggling business, Sweetea. But when Sunny's is vandalized with a racial slur, and signed with a tag that is related to Melissa's murder, Anna and Chris begin a dangerous search to resolve the dual investigations. Unease permeates the narrative, and the mysteries tap into the feel of contemporary social consciousness. Zhao thrills and perturbs with a fast-moving plot that examines themes of racism, fetishization of Asian women, and white privilege. Ages 14–up. Agent: Penny Moore, Aevitas Creative Management.