Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew

In a gripping novel set in present-day England under a Nazi regime, a sheltered teen questions what it means to be “good” — and how far she’s willing to go to break the rules.

Nazi England, 2014. Jessika Keller is a good girl - a champion ice skater, model student of the Bund Deutscher Mädel, and dutiful daughter of the Greater German Reich. Her best friend, Clementine, is not so submissive. Passionately different, Clem is outspoken, dangerous, and radical. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend, her first love. But which can she live without? Haunting, intricate, and unforgettable, The Big Lie unflinchingly interrogates perceptions of revolution, feminism, sexuality, and protest. Back matter includes historical notes from the author discussing her reasons for writing an “alt-history” story and the power of speculative fiction.

BOOK REVIEW by Cynthia Parten

I received the ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Okay, I have to admit that when I first saw this premise, I mistakenly thought this would be a story set in England during WWII. I have never been so happy to be wrong. No, this was Nazi England set in 2013. It was so scary to see what would have happened if Hitler had never been stopped.

The book had me hooked from the beginning. Jessika is a "good girl." She follows the rules and rarely questions authority. Her friend, Clementine, is a different story. Clementine was rebellious and always questioned everything. The author did an incredible job if building this world. First of all, it was kind of interesting the way they brushed over the Holocaust during WWII. According to the Nazis in England, all the Jewish people ran away to America and were never seen or heard from again. And everyone in England is extremely distrustful of Americans, to the point that they don't even allow any Americans on English soil. America was not in this story at all and I kind of loved that. There was so much Nazi propaganda and racism that it gave me chills. I know that people have felt this way in the past (and some still do), so maybe that's why it was so chilling.

The author was so adept at showing Jessika's confusion that I was even confused about some of the stuff happening. The reason for this confusion was due in large part to the author's subtlety. I could see that Jessika was struggling, not just with her sexuality, but with her parents and the rules set by her country. She begins questioning everything she was ever taught and I felt so sad for her. Everything that Jessika is told, she wants to believe. The reader sees and hears everything that Jessika does and she is not told everything, so the reader becomes as confused as Jessika. You kind of have to read between the lines at the author's subtlety to figure out what exactly is happening. Jessika begins to develop feelings for Clementine and is thoroughly confused about her sexuality. Her sexuality is another one of those things that you have to read between the lines . . . in the beginning, anyway. She kissed Clementine, but then also started a relationship with the young man. All of Jessika's struggles and fears were very, very subtle. There were times when she seemed genuinely attracted to this young man. But then something would happen and you would wonder if she had feelings for him or if she was just with him because it was what was expected of her.

The story kind of falls apart towards the end though. There came a time at about the 70% mark when the story just becomes dull. Nothing much happens. The last thirty percent of the book drags and then the ending seemed so hasty and rushed. I was not a fan of the ending at all and if not for that (and the slow pacing of the last part of it), the book might have gotten a higher rating for me.