The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Released: January 3 2017
Read: December 14 2016
The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti does most things really well, but fails at others. It’s a bold move to have the disappearance of Lizzie the central point, considering we never meet her in real life. Hawthorn as vulnerable protagonist and as the conduit to discover the truth about Lizzie, works because her mind is worth dipping in to. She is awkward, self-aware, self-pitying, and lonely. She’s also quirky, curious, and determined to remain an outsider looking in—even if the view makes her jealous, spiteful, and a little bit nasty at times. Her caustic observations, her wilful determination to solve the mystery, and her despondent reactions to the bullying and teasing she endures are both witty and troubling, and ensures she remains a sympathetic character.
Those moments when Hawthorn reveals contradictory attitudes to her social exclusion aren’t always successful. While we see her derision at her tormentors, we also see her envy at their popularity and privilege. In my mind, she should be dismissive of them, and yet she covets their life, and not very secretly either. Anyway, Hawthorn does this constantly through the novel—shows spirit and resilience, then becomes whiny and pitiful. It’s disconcerting.
The developing friendship with Lizzie’s boyfriend, Lorenzo is also problematic. He is much older than her 17 years, and slowly we see his true personality, and it’s a bit creepy. Hawthorn’s attempts to persuade Enzo that Lizzie’s disappearance is due to paranormal reasons is clever because, as readers, we are familiar with regular contemporary novels being suddenly thrown into supernatural dimensions, so it’s entirely plausible it could happen here. That both of them desperately want to believe Lizzie is still alive is a poignant depiction of genuine grief.
Throughout most of the story, Hawthorn lives a double life. Hanging out with Enzo, working in a café, and becoming more confident and comfortable, contrasts with her school life, where she is tormented by spiteful bullies, even more isolated when her only friend Emily finds a boyfriend. Hawthorn appears so selfish in this world, a pitiful victim. Standing up to mean girl Mychelle (yes, it’s spelt with a ‘y’) is hard, and Hawthorn only manages it sporadically. When her two worlds collide, it is a painful thing to watch, most of all because Hawthorn is blindsided. It’s an example of what Sedoti gets right—that awkward teenage sense of heightened humiliation and regret.
Sedoti is saying that we never truly know what’s going on in a person’s head. And sure, it’s not an original theme in YA novels, not by a long shot, but Sedoti’s treatment of it is insightful and interesting. Hawthorn’s obsession with Lizzie might seem weird, but it says much about her—she has an incredible imagination, she feels intensely, and she is desperately seeking meaning and a place to fit. Other characters such as Rush and Connor, Sundog and Emily, in their own ways help Hawthorn to find herself amidst the random chaos of the universe.
I like that the more I think about the novel, the more there is to find. I have read a lot of negative reviews at Goodreads, but that’s also balanced by a lot of positive, which pretty much sums up my reaction to it. I liked a lot of it, but there were just a couple of minor niggles that stopped me from totally engaging with Hawthorn’s story.
Thanks to the publishers via Netgalley who provided access to this early ARC. Released January 3rd, 2017.
Recommended to readers who prefer their books full of intense emotion, with slow growth of a main character who has a strong, if inconsistent narrative voice. The romance level is low. Secondary characters are well developed. Resolution is conclusive and hopeful.