There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake book review

Our verdict on Nick Lake’s hypnotic tale of parallel universes

Most teenagers go through a phase of hating their parents. 17-year-old Shelby probably has better reason to rebel than most of them, though: her mother is so overly protective that she’s kept her at home for her entire life, never allowed out to go to school, make friends or do anything a normal kid might want to do. But Shelby doesn’t know any different. If it wasn’t for a freak car accident, she might never have managed to break free of her mother’s love.

Breaking her leg sets in motion a series of events that changes Shelby’s life forever – because, as it turns out, her mother isn’t really her mother. Soon, her identity crisis leads her into a weird world of social workers and trickster gods.

There are two parallel universes competing in There Will Be Lies. There’s the everyday world, and there’s The Dreaming, a kind of fairy-tale land that Shelby escapes into whenever her real life becomes too stressful. There, she’s guided by Coyote, the untrustworthy figure from Native American mythology, as she sets out on a quest to defeat the evil Crone and save the Child (plus the rest of the world).

The thing is, it’s clear right from the beginning that The Dreaming is pretty much exactly what the name suggests – a dream. Shelby might take almost the entire book to figure out who the Child she has to rescue is and who the Crone really represents, but any half-awake reader will catch on as soon as the quest is explained to them. There’s no real mystery here, at least not for us; all we can do is turn the pages and wait for Shelby to work through it all in her own time.

In fairness, she’s going through a lot, even without the mythological stuff. The book’s written in the first person, and though the voice isn’t always convincingly that of a real teenage girl – and the internet-influenced slang will age pretty badly – it means we get an insight into a character working through a really complex dilemma. Her magical counterpart might have a fairly straightforward quest to complete, but for the real-world Shelby, things are far more complicated.

What also sets Shelby apart from other YA heroines is that she’s deaf, which means her perspective on the world is slightly different from what you might get elsewhere. Her condition isn’t used to make her a victim either, which is pretty commendable. It also doesn’t significantly slow her down, since she’s an expert lip-reader, which lets her understand most of what’s going on around her, even if the new people she meets can’t or won’t learn to understand her sign language.

Readers in search of a magical adventure that actually involves magic might be disappointed with the way There Will Be Lies wraps up, and as a thriller it doesn’t entirely work, since the stakes are mostly emotional. But it’s a book that handles the themes of identity and love smartly, and by the end, if you let it, it might even make you tear up a bit. If nothing else, it’ll almost certainly make you grateful for your own parents.