I bought this on a whim because it showed up on the ‘What other customers bought’ section of my Amazon page, which made no sense at all the book I was looking at just then was a totally unrelated YA horror. Amazon clearly has some issues with its recommendation system, then, but it’s all good: after finding this book I was very grateful that they’d plagued me on that particular day.
The book opens when Alix’s parents come into her room and tell her that her girlfriend, Swanee, died of a cardiac arrest early that morning. As readers, we’re immediately in love with Swanee and grieving for her the same way Alix grieves for her – this is obviously proof of Julie Anne Peters’ genius, since Swanee has no actual lines of dialogue apart from during flashback moments and yet we still think she’s awesome. Just as Alix starts to come to terms with her loss, she discovers texts on Swanee’s phone from an unknown girl, calling her ‘sweetheart’ and with absolutely no idea about the tragedy that has gone on.
Alix’s story is told in a gorgeous, unique voice that captures the essence of her character perfectly, and as the narrative unfolds our attitudes towards Swanee change dramatically. There’s a wonderful mystery element to the story, which I normally avoid but loved in this case – it’s very character led and focussed on emotions rather than situations, but still retains excellent pace that keeps you hooked. It’s probably a little shorter than average but I still read it in less than twenty-four hours, which for me is weirdly fast. (I also chose the book over Modern Family and eating dinner whilst it was still hot. DEDICATION). Something contemporary YA seems to miss out on at the moment is keeping levels of suspense high – even if the story is realistic rather than fantastical, I think it’s still so important to keep readers desperate to find out what happens next and this book achieved all these things so well.
Yes, this is a romance novel but it’s one of those ‘something for everyone’ books (sorry for the cliché, everyone): there’s mystery, there are antagonists with stunning depth, there’s some sport, and all of the subplots are intricately woven into the main story so none of it feels disjointed. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who would like a moving and deep YA that remains easy-to-read and doesn’t leave you with that suicidal feeling at the end like a lot of stories with similar themes do (looking at you, Titanic).
My final point is that you don’t have to be gay to read it. I think possibly the reason there isn’t much LGBTQIA+ YA in bookshops is because the people choosing the stock think that straight teenagers don’t want to read about queer kids, and this is completely false. For me, Lies My Girlfriend Told Me was relatable because the emotions involved have universal relevance. And just like with any great book, you don’t have to have had the same experiences as the characters you’re reading about in order to fall in love with them.
Georgie Penney is a teen writer and bookworm from England. At the moment she’s working on a gay YA novel of her own and can be found procrastinating on Twitter (@missgeorgie) or else ranting on her blog (georgiepenney.weebly.com).