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Little Red Lies Hardcover – September 10, 2013

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 6-9-At 14, Rachel McLaren is finding it difficult to grow up with all of the trouble at home. Jamie, her older brother, returns from World War II and continually relives the battles and horrors in the trenches. His family assumes he is suffering from stress, but eventually he learns that he has leukemia. While Jamie is in and out of remission, Mrs. McLaren becomes pregnant. Rachel learns to grow up in a hurry once her baby brother arrives and her mother stays in bed all day with postpartum depression. The girl is faced with a handsome new teacher who exhibits inappropriate behavior toward many of the girls. The appeal of the story is that the problems are real and not overdramatized. Readers may find Jamie's story more interesting than Rachel's as his "letters not sent" ring true to the time period and offer a soldier's perspective on the war. A quiet, thoughtful novel, with more introspection than action.-Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MIα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journal. LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Fifteen-year-old Rachel is dealing with a lot. Her brother, Jamie, has returned from WWII, haunted by the friendly fire that wounded him and killed his buddy Leeson. She has a crush on her high-school drama teacher and wonders if he feels the same way about her—and does she really want him to? Then Rachel is quickly overwhelmed when the family learns that Jamie has leukemia and their mother is expecting a baby to, as Jamie angrily says, “take my place.” Johnston has crafted a beautifully written, low-key, yet emotional story of a family dealing with the return of a son at the close of war. Jamie is wracked with survivor’s guilt and frustrated at returning to his adolescent way of life after having experienced the trauma of battle. His letters to Rachel, unsent but carefully saved so he can read and reread them, are painfully realistic, the antithesis of the glamour that teens too often assign to war, regardless of the decade. The family has more than its share to cope with during the year that Rachel narrates the story, but the love the characters feel for each other—and the resilience that love offers them—makes this difficult story authentic and ultimately hopeful. Grades 7-12. --Frances Bradburn
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tundra Books (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1770493131
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770493131
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,397,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Tundra Books and Netgalley.)
13-year-old Rachel hopes that things will be just like they used to be before, when her brother Jamie comes back from serving in the Second World War, but Jamie seems different.

Rachel wants to be a playwright when she gets older, and when a new teacher offers to tutor her and help her, she accepts, even when her friends think that his intentions may not be pure.
What is wrong with Jamie though? Will he ever get better? Can Rachel really write plays? What does her teacher really want with her? And why is her mother suddenly in bed all the time?

This story was okay, but certain things annoyed me, and the ending was pretty poo.

Rachel was quite a naïve character, and some of the things she came out with just irritated me. I couldn't quite believe it when one of the first things she said to her brother after he returned from the war was `was it exciting?'. I mean really? How about horrific, and terrifying? I wouldn't choose the word `excited' - as Jamie replied - some of his friends died.

The storyline in this was okay, but I didn't feel like much was resolved by the end. The main storylines were Jamie coming back from the war, Jamie being ill, Rachel's dreams of being a playwright, and her misadventures with a teacher at school. These were all okay storylines, but at times I felt like the story wasn't going anywhere.
I also disliked the way that people treated Jamie after he got home from the war - telling him that he had changed, and they wanted him to change back, and moaning that he wasn't eating, and that he needed to get over it.
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Format: Paperback
I could not be more disappointed with a book. I chose this book for the intriguing summary and cover, but I could not have chosen worse. This post WWII book has several elements that could be intriguing, but so many things prevent this from being a good book.

Firstly, there are way too many problems. I understand that this is a 'coming of age' book, but the number of problems should be reasonable. Rachel, the main character, is a teenager going about her normal life. It's post WWII and her beloved brother Jamie has come home. While not drastically injured, he has PTSD and after a while an illness which turns out to be Leukemia. After Rachel's teacher retires, she gets a new teacher who flirts with the girls and seems like a pedophile. Rachel loves her teacher, 'Tommy', as she calls him and spends almost the entire book dreaming about their pretend relationship. Rachel also convinces herself one of her friend's mothers is a killer. Throw in a new baby in her home that everyone seems to hate and beloved missing neighbor and you have way to many plots to not only keep track of but find a way to resolve. At the end, they never are really resolved.

One aspect of the book that is interesting - and extremely frustrating at the same time - is the interspersed letters Rachel's brother Jamie writes to Rachel. While Rachel is the narrator of the book, there are frequent breaks, one or more per chapter, from Jamie's perspective. It seems to be like he writes the diary to Rachel, and I'm not sure if he intends to give it to Rachel at some point, or it's just easier for Jamie to get mental relief by conjuring up the person his sister used to be and write these mythical letters to her. I think part of the problem is the font the letters are written in.
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Format: Hardcover
Book Review
It’s tough to be thirteen, especially at a time when women are still inferior, war weighs heavy on everybody’s mind, and trying to find oneself can mean making mistakes. Sheltered for most of her life, Rachel is coming of age, her brother has just returned from the war and suffers from major depression, and her aging mother became pregnant, putting Rachel at the bottom of everyone’s priorities. On the brink of being a woman, but still a child, Rachel wants to be seen as mature and grown, and when her teacher offers to tutor her, his intentions are exactly adult-like and you quickly realize Rachel and her family are a train wreck.

“Granny’s eyes are on my lips. Here it comes, I think. A war paint crack, or raspberry jam, or here’s a hankie, wipe it off. But, no. She grins at me and winks.”

The book is a mix of Rachel’s stories and her brothers’ unsent letters from the war, which eventually put the pieces of the story more in focus up until the end. By the end of the book you find you are left with many unanswered questions. Does this mean there will be a sequel? Other than the weird ending, I really liked this book. It is one I think most teens can relate to either personally or as a “Jersey Shore”-type story. I would definitely read book two if available!

*This book was provided in exchange for an honest review
*You can view the original review at San Francisco Book Review
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By Jane Halliwell on September 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"On my tombstone, they will engrave 'Rachel Liar McLaren. She meant well, but she had no backbone' "

I picked Little Red Lies because the summary of a young girl growing up and dealing with her brother's changes after the war sounded interesting to me. I hadn't expected it to be subtle, charming and endearing.
But that's exactly what I found it to be. It is a story of family, relationships, connection, and most of all, growing up, and being human. The main character, Rachel McLaren is an imaginative, somewhat dramatic girl with just a little bit of spunk. As a reader, you care for her. If you are close to her age, you want to be her best friend. If you are older than her, you want to take her under your wing; she feels like a little sister who has some growing up to do, but you know that when she does, she will become a remarkable woman. She has some troubles with reality at first, but she always means well.

Author Julie Johnston tells this story with subtlety, really showing the reader the personality of Rachel, her brother, and her parents. There is no need to have things spelled out in the book.

It ends like a fading breeze, rather than as a big bang, leaving conclusions that go without saying. Little Red Lies feels like a companion. It won't give you an epiphany, but it will stay with you.

Rachel McLaren will live on in my heart.
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