A review in which I rant about The Truth About Lies by Tracy Darnton

Title: The Truth About Lies
Series: N/A
Author: Tracy Darnton
Publication: July 12th 2018, Stripes
Pages: 256 Pages, Ebook
Source: Library
Rating: 2/5 cupcakes

Jess has an incredible memory. She can remember every single detail of every single day since she was eleven. But Jess would rather not be remarkable and, after years of testing at the hands of a ruthless research team, she has finally managed to escape.
Just when Jess thinks that she’s managing to settle in to living a normal life, everything changes. Her boarding-school roommate dies and the school is thrown into a state of chaos and grief. Then new boy Dan appears and Jess can’t help but find herself drawn to him. But building relationships is hard when you can’t reveal who you really are and Jess is getting hints that someone knows more about her than she would like.
Is it time to run again? Will she ever be truly free?

I was intrigued by this book when I first heard about it. It's about Jess, a girl who can remember everything that has ever happened to her. Want to know what she was wearing on January the 13th 2010? She can tell you. Want her to recite an encyclopedia? She can do it as easy as breathing. Due to her brilliant and rare ability to recall everything that's happened to her, she fell into the hands of a research team who ran the Programme. However, they quickly abandoned all recognition of ethics and morals in pursuit of knowledge. Finally managing to escape, Jess finds herself at an international boarding school where she tries to live a normal life. However, normality is shattered when her roommate dies in a suspected suicide, a new boy shows up who takes a liking to Jess, and coded messages start appearing around the school making Jess believe that someone knows more about her and her past then they're letting on.

I firstly want to say that I don't read thrillers pretty much ever. I like books that are happy and fluffy, and thrillers don't generally fall into that category. But lately I've been in the mood for a good mystery/thriller. I tend to read this genre if it falls under the children's fiction bracket as I know I won't be reading anything too scary if I stick to that. BUT, for this I made an exception as I thought the plot sounded super interesting. I was really hoping that I would love this, but it fell flat for me.
It's very readable. There are a few twists and subtle revelations that made me want to keep reading. There were several questions I had that had me flying through the pages, hoping that my questions would be answered soon.
 I liked Dan, the love interest. He was sweet and incredibly patient with Jess. I liked that he helped her with her burden.

Unfortunately, the negatives far outweigh the positives for this one.

 I didn't like the characters, especially Jess. I know I say this in pretty much every review, but characters make or break a book for me. A book can have no plot, I'll hardly bat an eyelash. Mediocre writing? Eh, we can't all be Jane Austen. But one-dimensional, unlikable characters? I'm outta here.

I really, really didn't like Jess. She thinks she's better than everybody else and looks disdainfully at every other character in the book. She makes catty remarks about pretty much every other girl in the book. Maya and Keira, the two other female characters in the book, weren't too bad. Okay, Keira, wasn't that great but Maya was actually very sweet to Jess. They both tried including her and making sure she was okay, but Jess constantly belittles them and makes comments about them being vapid. When they're choosing a colour for shirts they need to wear on a hike in honour of Hanna, Jess's roommate who died, Jess purposely suggests a colour that will make Maya look bad. UGH.

The true extent of Jess's vindictive nature is revealed later on in the book. Hanna was troubled in the sense that she suffered severely from body image issues and eating disorders. Jess, knowing this, still egged her on to drink things to lose weight and do stuff that would harm Hanna. It was actually quite sickening. She's absolutely terrible and towards the end it's revealed that the actions of the Programme may have affected her empathy slightly, but there was no self-recognition of this. There was no character change. The book ended with Jess being just as cruel as she was in the beginning of the book. I really didn't like her at all.
The other characters were underdeveloped too. I didn't like Jess, but there were no other characters that particularly stood out to me. I liked Dan but he didn't have that much of an impact like Will Herondale or whoever. The other characters that featured were all just very one-dimensional and bland. And quite horrible too. Like Dr Harrison, the therapist? He was awful, but the book portrayed him as someone to pity! He wasn't properly licensed (I'm not sure if that's the correct terminology or not, but he wasn't a legit therapist) and he used methods that would've had him completely banned from practicing again. Worst of all, which just proves my point of Jess being a horrible person, when he reveals the role he played in Hanna's death, Jess does nothing despite knowing the damage he's already inflicted. It was practically criminal.

Hanna also wasn't developed at all. I didn't know her character at all, so I didn't care much for her as her character wasn't developed at ALL. Apart from knowing she was blonde, skinny, and mentally ill I knew absolutely nothing about her character. Were her and Jess even actually friends? I DON'T KNOW.
The plot honestly felt quite messy. There were several loose ends that were never tied up. Like did the teacher (I can't remember his name) die at the end of the book or did he escape? Was Jess reunited with this other character whose name I won't mention because spoilers? How did Hanna actually die? The Hanna plot line also felt so unnecessary and I'm still not actually sure what role it played in the story. Maybe it was a way to show how the results of the Programme had such a damaging effect on Jess's empathy abilities but it just felt contrived and unnecessary. I feel as if the author had developed the plot about the Programme this book would've been SO much better.

I also hated how traumatic events were used as a plot device. I get that there are books about things that are really difficult to talk about. Unfortunately we live in a fallen world and people experience horrific things. Books are written about these things, sometimes as a healing process for the author, and sometimes for the reader to feel understood. However, these books should be written with sensitivity and deal with the issue appropriately. That didn't happen in this book. I'm still not entirely sure if Hanna's fall was intentional or not, that too was quite vague, but I feel like it could've been handled better. It wasn't really dealt with properly, I felt, and I feel like it could be upsetting to a lot of readers.She obviously wasn't pushed but the results of her taking a combination of alcohol and prescription pills caused disorientation that caused her to fall, if not intentionally jump. HOWEVER, the therapist was illegally prescribing her pills - shouldn't he be charged with murder?! I thought this was going to play an integral role in the mystery but it just felt like a piece of plot that was placed there to add drama and angst. It's a traumatic event that I felt was used as a plot device and that's not cool. At all. As Hanna's death was the result of a sensitive topic, I feel as if it could've been handled with more gentleness.

The plot really wasn't as great as I thought it would be. It was underwhelming, messy, and had various loose ends. It had potential. There was suspense and a build up but it was extremely underwhelming. I felt like it was being pulled in two directions: the unnecessary addition of Hanna's death and the danger of the Programme finding Jess. Both plot lines weren't developed and didn't add that much in the way of Jess's character development which I really think they should've because chica was hecka unlikable.
I was going to end the review at the last paragraph but I realised I had more to rant about. This book was published in 2018, and I really thought we would've left females tearing females down back in 2011, but no. Jess had no female friends and the ones who did try to be her friends, she was terrible to. Anything they did, even the acts of kindness, she treated with contempt. Her relationship with Hanna was so toxic as well, what little was described of it, that is. All I know is that Hannah would ditch her friends at the drop of a hat and had little respect for them. I also know that Jess would deliberately make Hanna feel bad about herself, perhaps because she was jealous of her. It was toxic and awful and Jess never seemed to show adequate remorse at the role she played in Hanna's death. There were no positive female friendships. Toxicity, jealousy, and betrayal ran rampant and it wasn't properly addressed.
One word: insta-love. Seriously though, it was insta-love. Jess and Dan pretty much have a thing after one or two meetings. Dan was very sweet to Jess but Jess isn't a great person, so I wasn't invested in the romance. 

Overall, I really wanted to like this. I was hoping I'd have a thrilling, exciting reading experience but instead I was met with one-dimensional and vindictive characters, an underwhelming plot, and a slightly problematic storyline. I think if I could use one word to sum up my reading experience it would be underwhelming. Everything felt underdeveloped and I couldn't connect to the plot or the characters. I was so disappointed in this book. I was hoping the ending would be good at least, but it wasn't. Had I known this, I wouldn't have bothered finishing it.

I give it: 2/5 cupcakes
Also, it's important for me to mention that there are trigger warnings for this book, quite a few of them. So just be aware when you go into it: suicide, depression, body dysmorphia, bulimia, eating disorders