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If the Witness Lied Hardcover – May 12, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–9—Three orphaned teenage siblings, separated by the tragic supposed patricide of their father by their two-year-old brother, reunite a year later to save this same brother from the clutches of their evil aunt, who wants to sell them out on a tell-all television show. The plot involves a lot of aimless meandering around their small Connecticut town, the characters are unremarkable, and the title, of course, gives away the mystery, but, as with all of Cooney's novels, the joy is in readers being more clued in than the hapless characters. Thus every chapter, narrated alternately by each sibling, ends with a successful degree of suspense. Contemporary technology—texting, cell phone videos, digital photography, online bank accounts—plays a weighty role; initially the reliance upon them aids each character's unhealthy distance from one another, but by the conclusion, it has become the link between them, creating laughably miraculous resolutions at every turn. A Christian theme pervades as well, as the siblings each question their relationship with God as well as with one another, and inevitably resolve both issues simultaneously. Fans of previous Cooney offerings will enjoy this, but most others can pass on it.—Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library
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From Booklist

First Jack Fountain’s mother dies of cancer after postponing treatment so her baby, Tris, could be born. Then his father is run over after two-year-old Tris accidentally moves the parking brake. Shortly after their father’s death, Jack’s sisters bail—Smithy to boarding school and Madison to her godparents’ home. But Jack stays at home to watch over Tris, knowing that “Aunt” Cheryl, now ensconced in the family home, is hardly a mother figure. She then proves it by selling the Fountains’ tragic story as a reality TV show. On their father’s birthday, the girls are drawn home, and the siblings must put aside their hostilities to salvage their family and save their baby brother. There are many holes in this story, starting with Cheryl’s ability to get custody, the unquestioning acceptance of Tris’ ability to move the brake, and the TV producer’s right to film without his subjects’ permission. Moreover, the title gives away the twist. Despite all this, readers will be enthralled. This isn’t about inconsistencies; it’s about creepy (if one-dimensional) villains, page-turning action, and kids taking charge. Grades 7-10. --Ilene Cooper

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385734484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385734486
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,748,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By And Another Book Read on March 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Fountain family has faced endless grief within the last couple of years and their future seems quite bleak as well. First the children's mother died, after refusing treatment for her fatal cancer so that she could give life to their baby brother Tris. Then, just two years later their father dies in a terrible accident leaving the four Fountain children alone and parentless with only their self-involved Aunt Cheryl left to care for them.

Within weeks the two Fountain daughters, Madison and Smithy flee, one going to live with her godparents and the other going to a boarding school hundreds of miles away. This leaves Jack to be the strong one, the one to take care of Tris, because Cheryl really only cares about herself and home makeover shows on TV.

As Tris' third birthday approaches, Cheryl decides that she is ready for fame and sells the family's soap-opera story to a reality television producer and Jack knows that his life is about to be thrown upside down once again. The thing is though this event brings the family together again. Along the way they find out some troubling information that makes them think....did the witness of their dad's death lie?

I believe if you looked up Caroline B. Cooney up in an encyclopedia you find "... author of heart-thudding thrillers." I could literally not stop reading this book and absolutely gobbled it up. The book as a whole was great, but there were definitely some holes that I wish had been patched up.

First of all, the plot was very original and was the driving force behind the "heart-thudding" feeling you got while reading the book. I loved how the author took a mystery and turned it into a novel about family, friendship, trust, loss, and love.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Compulsive Reader VINE VOICE on December 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Fountain family has been the focus of major media attention three times: when mother Laura Fountain made a decision that changed her family's life, when she died, and when her husband died. Now the four remaining Fountain children live scattered, fifteen-year-old Jack living and two-year-old Tris with their aunt Cheryl, and Smithy and Madison living at boarding school and with godparents. Jack has reformatted his life so his only job is to protect Tris, but when attention-seeking Cheryl invites the media back into their lives once more, it becomes impossible. Now the three older siblings will have to face their pain and grief and come together to not only protect Tris, but discover the truth.

Caroline B. Cooney's latest suspense novel has contains her trademark fast-paced, blunt style that makes her books so easy to absorbed in. Her third person, present tense narrative allows Cooney to character hop, which always keeps things interesting. Though the mystery is a bit simplistic, its tight time line is wrought with tension and never lags, making If the Witness Lied an excellent novel for reluctant readers.

The characters in the novel are also well done; Cheryl is truly intimidating, and her power makes her a character you love to hate. Though the Fountain parents are deceased, Cooney has a talent for weaving in small and surprising details that make them seem three-dimensional and real, also making their children's loss more meaningful. The older siblings are also very interesting as Cooney explores their memories and how their loss affects them all in different ways. Despite their pain and issues, you can't help but admire the way Madison, Jack, and Smithy come together to protect Tris.

The conclusion comes together rather quickly and easily, but it is a very satisfying one. Cooney's latest book is inventive and excellent, with a mystery that is unconventional and fascinating.
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Format: Hardcover
The Fountain family may as well be associated with any other family scrutinized under the public eye because of reality shows or docudramas. The Fountains first made national headlines and news broadcasts over the decision of Laura Fountain to forgo chemotherapy and give birth to baby Tris. The public couldn't understand why Laura refused to have an abortion and save herself. Then, not even three years after Laura's death, young Tris strikes again. As Reed Fountain scrambles underneath his Jeep to grab something, Tris climbs out of his car seat and releases the break causing the Jeep to roll over Reed. The media has another field day over this young killer of both his parents.

The rest of the Fountain family --- sisters Madison and Smithy, and older brother Jack --- are left to pick up the pieces of this once happy family. Madison and Smithy flee to godparents and boarding school, respectively, while Jack stays home with live-in guardian Aunt Cheryl to take care of Tris. Jack has never blamed Tris for his parents' deaths and has refused to give up loving his baby brother because of senseless tragedies. Cheryl is a less than desirable guardian and spends much of her waking hours in front of the television, obsessed.

When the anniversary of Reed's death approaches, Cheryl hatches a plan to capitalize on the public interest in the Fountain family. She makes a deal with a television producer to film the family and invade their personal lives once again. Now she just has to get the whole family home again and capture their awkward confrontations on camera. Jack eavesdrops on the plan and immediately heads to daycare to rescue Tris. Madison, who was planning on coming home anyway, walks out the door as soon as she sees the cameras.
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