"The Whole Thing was Epic and Titanic." – Cathy

This book was lent to me by HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) for review.

This review is not as witty as most.  Nor, am I fully awake writing it since I just spent four hours finishing the book, and getting it off my plate.  THIS, is your warning, hah.

I have found the very first Harper Perennial book that I did not quite like.  It is The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock (who is remarkably cute, if you try to find a picture of her through google, or in the author link at the bottom). By the way, how many books can possibly have this title, we need to be more original.

This poor Harper Perennial makes me depressed and it makes my eyes sink a little from forcing myself through it for the last four hours.  I can think of numerous reasons why this book wasn’t one of my favorites (in fact I gave it a low score of two-first-grade-stars on goodreads.com), but let’s be honest that I probably didn’t like it as much because it came just after The Gathering.

While I normally really like Young Adult fiction and simultaneously, really like Historical Fiction, but mixed together, and in such a trite way (where the main character was completely and utterly unlikable) really just got on my nerves.  Even the “cold hard facts,” that I’m quite sure now aren’t even facts after googling around a bit, were written in the tone of voice in the main character, Cathy, which makes me dislike her even more.  I really loathed this character, Cathy, and all her friends, especially the “other villain,” Nic. (When I say the “cold hard facts,” this author has thrown in, what I think is real fact, with names changed, but yet still in the voice of her main, teenage girl character).

I should probably give you a quick plot summary:

Teenage girl kills best friend. Young brother is finding out all the lies his family told when taken over by German soldiers on their home island of Guernsey (which according to the main character, Cathy, doesn’t even have a name on the maps).

There were some redeeming qualities for the book before I go on my all out rant.  The first is that plot #1 is about teen bullying, which is unacceptable and finally getting spotlight in the media for being something that ACTUALLY happens.  Yes, we’ve had the Heather’s movies, and Jawbreaker, among others, but we haven’t had any actual data or news coverage until just recently.  And most of this has been brought on by the LGBTQ community who are finally speaking out on the bashing of homosexuals and all others who are questioning their lifestyles in any way.  So, let’s all Thank Goodness for the Gays for a second (as usual my blog is completely Gay Pride).  However, this is a serious issue and any book that really dives into the teenage culture and its specific norms and values should be given a high-five.  Believe it, or not, teens ARE a culture and they DO have special rules, and any book that brings to light the breaking down of their “normal-life values and morals” to point out their morals and values within a clique, is a good book for teens to read.  It is also at a reading level of teen years, so that helps as well.  The main character even points out through parenthesis when she uses a “big” or “smart” word.  Which, isn’t overdone and so, thankfully, doesn’t add to her already annoying qualities.

Normally, I can get really involved in YA novels, or novels about WWII.  Both of these topics absolutely fascinate me.  I love the idea of authors diving into the minds of teenagers, or learning about any aspect of World War II.  We can all agree World War II was the Universe’s giant car crash that people can’t stop looking at, no matter how much time passes.  It also has proved the power of one man, the power of group-think, and the power of language (hate-speech).  Since I am intrigued by both of these topics, I thought this book would be an easy and exciting read.  While, I can say that the World War II section of the book was absolutely fascinating and kept me pushing through the teenage bullshit in the other sections, it still wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t raw enough, their wasn’t even torture.  If you want to tell me a man hasn’t spoken about the reason he was sent to a concentration camp for his entire life, I want to know what happened to him and how, and why and answer all my thousands of fundamental questions.  And then I want to know how he escaped, and why, and what happened to him there.  It isn’t enough to tell me he was tortured.  This is where, this book lost it completely for me.  All throughout creative writing classes around the world, teachers are repeating themselves  a thousand times saying, “show do not tell.”  Horlock told this entire novel.  She didn’t let me feel an ounce of anything, for any character except maybe Donnie and Vicky who were neither main characters and who felt something, which in turn made me feel something.

None of the main characters have redeeming qualities (not the dad, not the daughter, not any of the family) and maybe that is what Horlock is going for here.  It is a Book of Lies, correct?  So, while the lies are unfolding throughout the novel, we are also learning to hate the liars.  At least I was.

Even as the main girl character, Cathy, explains how “truly sorry” she is by the end, I could care less.  I can’t stand her.  I’m being a total mean girl, huh?

I recommend this book for the age group it should be marketed to, young adults.  YOUNG adults, I think high school students are even beyond this.

I wish I could give this a better review, but I guess I’m honest…not a book of lies (pun. totally. intended).

Here are some other blogs who reviewed this book:

  • “Horlock’s book is for girls of a certain age”
  • http://crazy-for-books.com/
    • A bit of Guernsey history.
  • http://www.readings.com.au/news/the-story-of-my-book-mary-horlock-on-the-book-of-lies
    • The Author note.
  • http://heatherlo.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/the-book-of-lies-by-mary-horlock/
    • I just like this review.

    One thought on “"The Whole Thing was Epic and Titanic." – Cathy

    1. bea mannes says:

      I would say this author did move you. She moved you to hate her main characters. By the end, you loathed the main female character. As you said, it is a book of lies, and in hating the characters, you also showed you hated the lies. Something is going on in this book, and it would be great if the writer responded to the review. But, I guess, like you, I always need more detail.

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