Little Black Lies
Author: Tish Cohen
Little Black Lies by Tish Cohen tells the story of Sara Black, a high school student who is about to begin her junior year at the prestigious Anton High. Not just anyone can get into Anton high; each student has to take a brutal exam before freshman year and no one is allowed in after that…except for in Sara’s case. Sara is a math genius and her dad is about to start a new job at Anton- as the school’s janitor.
Sara is nervous about her new start in a new school and neighborhood, but she figures it can’t be so bad. Everyone at the school is just as smart as her. There are no cheerleaders or star quarterbacks; there are mathletes and band members. Little does Sara know that even in a school full of nerds and geniuses, there is still a serious social hierarchy.
When Carling, the most popular girl at Anton takes notice of Sara, Sara realizes that she could have a great experience at Anton, if she gets in with the right crowd. When Carling asks where Sara is from, and she replies, “Lundon,” Carling and her friends assume she means London, England and from there Sara spins herself into an intricate weave of lies.
I really enjoyed this book because it took a completely different spin on the often used private school/popularity storyline. I found it really interesting that the author chose to set this story at a school for geniuses, where the stakes are a bit higher and its each student for themselves as they compete to get into the best colleges. I enjoyed the fact that even though there weren’t the typical cheerleaders or “popular girls,” the social hierarchy remained strong and we saw a new type of mean girl. One with brains, money and power.
One of my favorite parts of the story was Sara’s relationship with her dad Charlie. Charlie has OCD and Sara struggles with helping him through it, especially since her mom skipped out of town to move to Paris with her lover. We saw this emotional maturity in Sara that you don’t find in many other YA main characters. Sara was fiercely protective over her dad Charlie, although we do see her struggle with finding the balance between her loyalty to him and her desire to fit in with Carling and her friends. Sara is ashamed to tell her friends that her dad works at Anton has a janitor, so she lies and says he is a surgeon. Sara feels obviously guilty, but still struggles to tell the truth, especially after all of the other lies she has told.
I love how Cohen slowly revealed more and more details about Sara’s life throughout the book that led us to finally understand all of her motives and created a full picture. Short flashbacks help us understand Sara’s complicated relationship with her mother. Each plot line served a purpose and Cohen expertly told the story in a way that kept the reader engaged.