WARNING: There may be spoilers in this review.
We all have that one person we know doesn’t treat us right, but we can’t help being in love with them. For Lucy, that person is Stephen. Stephen is mediocre at best, but Lucy can’t help going back to him time and time again.
Tell Me Lies starts out in present-day New York with Lucy working a so-so job heading off to her best friend’s wedding. Lucy is a jumble of nerves because she knows her ex-boyfriend, Stephen, is going to be there. The rest of the book is mainly told in flashbacks to the pair’s college days reliving their tumultuous relationship.
This book made me so angry. In full honesty, it made me angry because it reminded me so much of my own college relationship. I got mad when Lucy believed every lie Stephen told her. I got mad when she hung every hope she had on Stephen thinking she was beautiful. I got mad when she turned down her dream study abroad program to go to his stupid graduation party. I got mad every single time she gave him the power to break her because no one, especially not a shitty, kind-of boyfriend like Stephen, should have that power.
Tell Me Lies is such a powerful book because it gives readers the permission they need to forgive themselves for their past mistakes. It reminds anyone that holds the book in their hands that their past does not define them, only their future. We all make mistakes, but we are all able to come back from those mistakes for the better. We can be better friends, students, sons/daughters, and partners.
In addition to her toxic relationship, Lucy also deals with a pretty intense eating disorder throughout the book. It’s particularly hard to read about because her friends and family try to help, they really do, but Lovering shows readers that you can only lead the horse to water, you can’t force it to drink. Lucy struggles with her eating disorder after being told: “to watch out for the freshman-fifteen.” She cuts out almost every food group aside from lettuce, alcohol, and cocaine, which leads to years of hunger-pangs and carrying sweaters everywhere — even in 90-degree weather. Lovering doesn’t glorify this disorder, but she also doesn’t shame Lucy for experiencing it. In my opinion, she does a good job of vilifying the disease and portraying Lucy as a beautiful girl, inside and out, who got a little lost as she figured out who she was going to be in this world.
Tell Me Lies kind of broke me. It reminded me of a time when I wasn’t as confident as I am now. It reminded me of a time when I relied on the validation of someone who should never have held that power. While it reminded me of some of the hardest times in my life, it also reminded me of how far I’ve come. How much I love myself just as I am now, and how I surround myself with people that lift me up rather than tear me down — just like Lucy. When she runs into Stephen at the wedding, she doesn’t break. She doesn’t know who is more surprised by this — Stephen or herself. She sees him, with none other than his recent fiancé, and she’s fine. She’s really fine. And I truly think that’s all anyone can hope for when they are forced to interact with the ex that absolutely destroyed them.
Tell Me Lies is not an easy read by any means. If you’ve ever experienced a toxic relationship similar to Lucy and Stephen’s, your heart is going to be gutted. But, hopefully, it also brings you solace to the fact that you are not alone in making those choices. We read books for a variety of reasons, one of those being to feel less alone in this crazy world we live in, and Lovering accomplishes just that with her novel Tell Me Lies.
Trigger Warning: Eating disorders, cheating, drug usage, and toxic relationships.