YA Weekend: Dare You To Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Series: Book 1 of Hometown Antihero
Publisher: Tor Teen (September 4, 2018)
Length: 351 pages
Dare You to Lie is the story of Kylene Danners, a teenager with a lot on her plate. Two years after her departure from Jasperville, Ohio, she is forced to move back into the hostile and bitter environment of her hometown that she thought she had escaped. However, Ky is not going to take these new changes lying down. Living with her grandfather because her dad is in prison and her mom has run off with a new lover to California, Ky is here to settle two scores. The first is to prove that her father, a former FBI agent, did not in fact commit the crime for which he was convicted. The second is an even more personal matter, involving a drunken party during freshman year in which Kylene was photographed topless without her knowledge, and the pictures were leaked online. The suspects were all guys on the football team, and one was her boyfriend at the time. In the end, all of them got off scot-free, protected by powerful parties keen on defending the school’s football record, and Kylene’s reputation was destroyed.
That event was what drove her from Jasperville. But now Kylene is back, and she’s on a mission. With the help of her best friend Garrett and the new girl in school named Tabby, Ky is determined to dig into both cases and find out the truth, no matter what the townspeople may think about her and her disgraced dad. What she didn’t count on, however, was the depth of corruption she would encounter, sending her and her friends down a nightmarish path littered with violence and threats against their lives. Someone is going to great lengths to stop her investigations, but instead of making her back off, the pushback only confirms she is getting close to finding the answers, and she is not going to be intimidated.
I confess, this book probably deserves a higher rating, had not been a few major issues that really grated on my nerves. Annoying thing #1 was probably Kylene’s character herself. This girl comes charging in, full of piss and vinegar, ready to tear the world a new asshole. Normally, I would say, “You go, Kylene!” and God knows with the hand life dealt her, she has every right to have a chip on her shoulder. My problem, however, was the condescending way she immediately casts judgment on everyone, from the moment she steps foot back in her hometown and in her old school. She’s also aggressive and has no self-control, deliberately goading fellow students and even some teachers into altercation, not to mention she has an irritating tendency to get up on her soapbox to pontificate on some social issue or another, usually unnecessarily and at the most inappropriate times. Worse, it felt as if the author inserted many of the school-related conflicts to indulge her protagonist’s savior complex. I really wanted to like and sympathize with Kylene, especially given what happened to her, but she made that hard by coming across as my least favorite kind of character—the ones who are hypocritical and lacking in self-awareness, clearly being propped up by forced scenarios to seem more noble than they really are.
I also enjoyed the mystery, though I did feel the plot was spread a bit thin at times, tackling two cases at once so that it was impossible for the story to give enough time or attention to either one. While there’s a light hint that the two threads could be related, in the end one gets resolved while the other doesn’t, so be prepared for an incomplete ending that includes some groundwork that will set the stage for the next book in the series. Given the circumstances, I think the author did the best she could to balance all the different parts of her story, but it didn’t change the fact that the focus was scattered in multiple directions and pacing was often interrupted by too many distractions.
Speaking of which, it didn’t help that the issue was exacerbated by “guy drama”, between the best friend who has carried a secret torch for Kylene after all these years, and the ex-boyfriend who’s still in love with her who may or may not have been involved in her naked photo scandal. And as if that wasn’t enough, also throw in the rookie FBI agent who is a total hottie but also a major douche canoe (Kylene can’t seem to decide which detail is more important) which gave me all sorts of weird vibes. Because seriously, what kind of mid-20-something would bet to invite himself to an 11th grader’s homecoming dance as her date?
Still, to the book’s credit, the mystery went far deeper than I had expected, even though I was able to guess the person behind all of it before we got anywhere close to the end. It didn’t make following the story’s events any less interesting. A part of me still wants to know the outcome of the larger series arc and to see how our characters’ investigations will pan out, but I think I’ll be keeping a close and wary eye on reviews of the next book before making my decision on whether to continue. If we see growth in Kylene’s character, I just might be persuaded.