If I Lie by Corrine Jackson
Published: 2012, Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
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Sometimes a moment defines you, defines how people see you the rest of your life. That’s something my father said, a truism he shared with his troops. You can accept it or fight it. If you’re lucky, you’ll recognize the moment when it happens.
This was my moment.
Born in a small southern town composed primarily of war veterans and their families, Sophie Topper Quinn has been raised on topics of honor, loyalty, and respect. She’s learned what happens when people break the promises and lose trust in one other. Her family is a prime example: because her mother cheated on her father, who was currently deployed overseas, and then left him, Sophie’s had to grow up without a mother. She’s grown up being told that her mother is worthless, and has been rechristened as Quinn so that she and her mother no longer share the same name.
When a picture of Quinn making out with a guy who is most definitely not her boyfriend Carey becomes viral, Quinn finds herself stuck in a similar downward spiral to her mother. Except Quinn doesn’t have the luxury of leaving town. Instead, she’s forced to endure all sorts of cruelty from others for daring to cheat on her boyfriend just days before he gets deployed to the Middle East, and for daring to hide the truth.
For reasons I can’t quite formulate, I’ve found myself intrigued by this book’s premise from the very start. I wanted to know just what secrets Quinn is hiding from her town, and why she allows herself to be wrongly vilified. Although Quinn is no longer Carey’s girlfriend, she is the bearer of dark secrets that neither she nor Carey wants to see the light of day. Although I spent so much time speculating on what happened, the story itself presents more of an exploration of why things happened as they did. And what a fascinating exploration it is.
First and foremost, I really appreciated the amount of research and depth that Jackson put into a story dealing with military families. It’s not a topic I’m very familiar with, but it provides a fascinating subculture to study. Quinn’s father was a colonel in the military, her boyfriend Carey is currently serving, and her town itself is most distinguishable as a “military town.” Quinn has the opportunity to learn more about war veterans in depth as she assists with a project meant to record their memories and experiences.
Of course, the fact that the military is a constant preoccupation of her town makes it that much more difficult for Quinn to deal with the consequences of her supposed cheating on Carey. Carey, who graduated high school early to attend boot camp and has just been officially declared as MIA overseas, is literally like a hero to their town. The fact that Quinn would do anything to hurt Carey is not just disrespectful, but downright reprehensible in their eyes.
The amount of bullying that Quinn endures is incredibly difficult to read. I appreciated that Jackson is unflinching in her portrayal of how teens can hurt one another, and also how adults can revert to teenage behaviors out of anger. In a flashback, Quinn reveals that her high school’s principal was considering suspending her for having been unknowingly photographed in an incriminating picture. I mean, that’s just ridiculous. Because Quinn does not attempt to defend herself or her actions, she deals with social ostracization from former friends, Carey’s parents (who somehow blame her for Carey’s disappearance), and basically every other adult in town. Worst of all, Quinn’s own father now thinks she’s nothing more than a copy of her own cheating mother.
While my heart ached for all that Quinn had to endure, at a certain point I started feeling more frustrated than sympathetic by Quinn’s stubborn refusal to tell the truth. I get that she believed Carey’s secret was not hers to tell, but at times it was almost like she wanted to become a martyr. She allowed others to treat her like dirt for months. And she refused support at every turn. Her best friend Angel, Blake, the guy with her in that photo, George, her elderly veteran friend, even her father: all of them would have stood by her, given the chance. Yet as she’s bullied at every turn, Quinn does not once tell Carey the consequences she has to endure for keeping his secret. Honestly, at times I felt as though Quinn was too self-sacrificing and Carey was incredibly selfish. I respect how deep their friendship is for one another, but I did not find it necessary for Quinn to keep Carey’s secret by pretending to still date him.
Not surprisingly, I did not like any of the secondary characters, with the exception of George. The relationship that Quinn forms with George, one of the residents at a local VA Medical Center, is honestly the best and most touching part of this novel. Essentially as a punishment for Quinn’s “transgressions,” her father makes her volunteer at the hospital a few afternoons a week, and there she assists George with his project to capture the military stories of other veteran residents. Out of everyone who has been a part of Quinn’s life, it is only George who does not pass judgment on Quinn for her actions, only George who is willing to see her as more than the personification of one bad decision. At one point George basically tells Quinn that he doesn’t believe in all the bad rumors circulating about her, because he actually knows her. It’s more than sad that no one else in her town - particularly her friends and father - can’t say the same.
If I Lie is essentially a story about Quinn’s personal growth. She decides what matters to her and sticks by it, no matter the personal consequences. Although I personally found Quinn’s actions a tad unrealistic, at least she knows who she is and what she wants. This is a beautifully written and well-researched story with tons of character development. I just had a hard time reconciling Quinn’s thought process and found her tribulations overdramatic and unnecessary at times. Many readers, however, seem to have loved this one, so take my review with a grain of salt.
Rating: 3 stars