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TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In the Lying game Emma finds herself stepping into the life of Sutton, her long lost (and dead) twin sister after seeing a video of a snuff film starring Sutton placed on the internet. The novel is narrated by the dead Sutton (who doesn't remember much of her life) who watches as Emma tries to find out who killed her. The matter is complicated by The Lying Game which is popular with Sutton and her friends which involves cruel pranks that often include making the victim feel as though she is the victim of a crime.

The Lying Game is by the author of Pretty Little Liars which is one of the novels that has been packaged by HarperTeen for multiple media distribution. The book reads like a TV show (and the TV show is already in pre-production) and is a very entertaining and fast read. The mystery is intriguing but does not resolve at the end of the book (all of the characters are still suspects) there is a bit of resolution regarding a clue but the reader is still left a bit unsatisfied with the ending. The back cover (of my ARC) presents the novel as part Pretty Little Liars and part Lovely bones and honestly that's giving far more credit than the novel should get. The book is fun and trashy but can't be compared with a novel like The Lovely Bones (although if you can use this to convince your child that she should read The Lovely Bones then go for it).

Appropriateness: This is one of those books that will give conservative parents lots of worry. There is plenty of sex talk (although no actual sex), lots of drinking (complete with drinking games), criminal activity, mean girl bullying and even a bit of drug use. As is common with this genre book there is also an obsessive amount of "label dropping" as the author describes all the clothing with super-high end labels (even Emma as a foster child is obsessed with designer clothes). However, the characters in the book in no way appear normal (they're super rich) and Emma quite frequently looks down on their bad behavior. I wouldn't give the book to a high reading elementary schooler but if your middle grade reader wants to read the book it would be good to use it as an opening to have discussions of how to deal with situations (such as being at a party where everyone is participating in a drinking game) that they may find themselves in when they're older.
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on December 28, 2010
I really, really wanted to like this book...

I haven't read Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series, but the television spin-off became one of my guilty summer obsessions. Come on. It's fun to escape to a world filled with beautiful, haunted, wealthy teens. Especially teens who were full of delicious, dangerous secrets. The show's characters kept me tuned in because they were pretty, yes - but also dimensional and flawed and I wasn't quite sure what they were going to do next.

When The Lying Game was released a few weeks ago, I was kind of excited. I thought it would give me a chance to get to know some more of Shepard's great characters on a more intimate level, and follow them from the start of a new series. I'm pretty sure that's what the publisher was banking on (especially with the entirely unoriginal name tie-in) because on it's own, The Lying Game is so very far from fabulous, I can't even imagine her character's recommending it.

Let me just back up and give a short synopsis: Seventeen year old Emma has just been kicked out of her last foster home when she finds out she has an identical twin sister living in the next state. Well, not exactly living. Sutton, who appears as a ghostly narrator in the story, has just been murdered, and when Emma takes a road-trip to meet her long-lost twin she finds herself pulled into her sister's life and searching for clues to explain her death.

Doesn't sound like a bad concept, right? It's really not. In fact, the first part of the book had me hooked. I'm learning about Emma's slightly clichéd but still fairly interesting life. I'm digging her affection for journaling about comebacks she should have used and writing news headlines for her life. And I'm vastly curious about the snuff-film, the `Mean Girls' style game being played, and about Sutton and how she mysteriously died only to materialize in Emma's grungy bathroom with no memory of the event.

There's an urgency to the first portion of the book that felt real and scary and electrifying. But, one of the biggest problems I have with the book, is that it doesn't seem able to hold on to that electricity throughout.

As soon as Emma heads south to Tucson in search of Sutton, everything begins to goes down hill. Let's start with the obvious and glaring problem: Sutton doesn't show. Emma is kidnapped by Sutton's friends and her belongings are stolen. What does she do? She decides to impersonate her sister at a cool party, meet a hot guy or two, and then for bonus points, break into her sibling's house and pretend she is Sutton there as well. True, she doesn't learn about it her sister's death until the next morning, but the point is: Most of the time, no one in the book, including Emma and Sutton seem to even care that Sutton is dead. When Emma tries to tell the police and her parent's who she is, they all laugh it off and everyone moves on. And suddenly it's a story about a pretty girl, trying to fit in at a new school where everyone thinks she's someone else. OK. But was that the book I signed on for here? And, what about the murder?

No, no. We'd rather get into describing fancy houses, and meeting all of Sutton's annoyingly clone-like friends who walk around saying things like, "bee-yotch" and giggling about endless parties and trips to the spa and the mall. And the clothes. It was annoying that we couldn't get through a scene in the book without knowing precisely down to the designer and in many cases the name of the specific item what everyone was wearing. It was almost understandable in Sutton's half-sister and friends who I guess we are to believe really deeply care about such things. It was unforgivable in Emma who supposedly grew up dirt-poor and we were lead to imagine had a bit more original interests in life and even more so in Sutton, who slips these references in while narrating. I'm sorry. You have death-amnesia. You can't remember how you died, or really anything significant about your life, but you know who designed those cute cut-away heels? I'm now looking forward to the hereafter.

Despite the fact that this type of fashion-headed mean-girl stereotyping is distracting and boring, I could probably live with one character like that in the book. Yes, you may think you've seen these characters before. I felt like I was watching an episode of Pretty Little Liars on TV at times. (Sutton reminded me a lot of a lazy, non-intellectual version of Spencer.) The problem is that Sutton's friends come across as so identical that other than Charlotte's oft mentioned broad shoulders and red hair, I can't tell them apart most of the time. They all play tennis, they all shop and go to the spa, and they are all frankly pretty obnoxious and nasty. And unlike the television characters, they have no personality or even real storyline to make them unique in any way.

I sometimes got the feeling the author actually knew much more about these subsidiary characters but for the sake of mystery was leaving it out. If that was the case, it back-fired. They didn't manage to come across as mysterious. Just flat. I couldn't bring myself to really care about any of them. And I found myself angry at the author for writing a book where that was all there was to high-school girls. She gives them no credit for being intelligent, funny, capable young women with minds of their own and interests other than fashion and boys. There is some mention of real tragedy touching the lives of a few of these girls, and yet it doesn't seem to have affected them, at all. Even pretty little rich girls are not that shallow, and I think this book although at times fun, is ultimately un-relatable because of these demeaning assumptions.

Around this point I had to force myself to try to finish the book.

Another thing that really began to bother me was the narration. This book has two narrators. Sutton, who is dead and watching Emma's action, while sporadically interjecting her own commentary and sputtering memories, and a general narrator who seems a bit more omniscient and able to get into Emma's head. The problem is there is no warning when switching between narrators, and almost every time it happened I would realize half-way through a paragraph that Sutton was now speaking and have to go back and try to figure out where she started. It did not flow at all. I'm not sure why the author went with this technique. It seemed in the beginning as if it was going to be told with Sutton as the only Narrator, and was frankly more interesting that way. She even explained HOW Sutton had knowledge of what was in Emma's head. But somewhere along the line, she either got bored with that approach, or decided Sutton didn't really have enough to say or simply forgot from which perspective she was writing because it just grows more and more confusing as the story progresses.

And then we have what I'm going to call "The stupid factor." There were just so very few intelligent characters in this book. Not only do they seem to not really care about anything intelligent, they do really dumb, stupid things. Repeatedly. The dangerous pranks are just the beginning. More problematic was the annoying way that the author wrote as if she were assuming anyone reading the book was as stupid as her characters. She would hint blatantly at things so that you knew what was going to happen and then offer a big reveal of what she had already made clear was going on. Again, if this had happened once, I would let it slip, but over and over throughout the book to the point that I was literally groaning out loud as I read it, and I started to wonder exactly who her target audience was. I laughed out loud at the thought of any male (teen or otherwise) trying to make it through this thing. And if he did, what on earth would he come away thinking about girls?

Finally, towards the end of the book we start getting back into the murder and some suspense and action. Unfortunately, all we get is a set-up for the next book, and not even a big, revealing or shocking one at that. No mystery was solved. Nothing really changed for any of these characters from the point that Emma arrived in Tucson, and at the end of the day, I sadly felt as if all I had done was kind of meet some pretty poorly developed characters and learn about a murder that will likely get solved in book four.

I'm disappointed, mainly because I feel like this book really had so much potential. I'm not sure what happened along the way. Possibly it was decided that it needed to be stretched out into a series when it might have packed a punch as a single book. It just felt very unfinished to me, almost as if I was reading a rough draft.

I can't say I don't entirely care what happens in the subsequent books; I just don't think I can wade through them if they are as poorly developed as this one. Especially when there are so many other great books for young adults on the shelves these days. For this series to stand a chance, Shepard will really have to step up her game for the next book.
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on December 23, 2010
Sutton Mercer is a bad girl. Or at least she was. Until someone killed her. Someone she knew. A friend? Her sister Laurel? Clearly she messed with the wrong person and now the only hope she has to find out the truth is with Emma, an identical twin sister she never knew she had. One she hadn't even met until after she died.

But for Emma to discover just what happened she'll have to fool everyone into believing that she is Sutton. Emma, a girl who doesn't like to drink or to lie, and who has faced hardships that Sutton never had, will have to step into her Marc Jacobs strappy shoes and become the ultimate "mean girl" in order to uncover the identity of Sutton's killer.

And if Sutton could give her one piece of advice from the grave it would be to: "Always sleep with one eye open. Never take anything for granted. Your best friends might just be your enemies."

The Lying Game is a wickedly entertaining read. Almost all of the characters have a dark side and have the potential to have played a role in Sutton's death - including the recently deceased Sutton Mercer herself. And as the story unfolds the mystery continues to grow, as with every question that is answered, a new one takes its place.

The story moves quickly first page to last. And author Sara Shepard's clever use of the first-person narrative allows readers to get a peek at what's happening with both Sutton and Emma throughout - the only drawback being that it is easy to get caught up in Emma's story and the switch to Sutton's point of view can come as a bit of a surprise.
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VINE VOICEon December 22, 2010
Since I have never read The Pretty Little Liars series this is my first Sara Shepard book. I wasn't really sure if I was going to like it at first, but then I got hooked into the nasty little lying game.

Sutton was a rich girl, the girl who had it all, but some one killed her. Emma is a poor foster kid who finds out about Sutton and thinks she is going to go and meet her long lost twin sister, but gets herself thrown into the lying game.

When Emma arrives in Tuscan she was expecting to meet her sister, but instead she was kidnapped by 'Suttons' friends and taken to a party. Emma has no clue what is going on but later she gets a note telling her Sutton is dead and that she needs to keep playing the role of Sutton or she will be the next one to die. Emma tries to be Sutton, but she finds out really quick that she is nothing like Sutton. While pretending to be Sutton Emma tries to find out what has happened to Sutton.

What Emma finds out is that she is part of a evil bunch of friends. They play pranks on others as well as their only little circle of friends. There is Charlotte (who is not over the guy that is/was going out with Sutton), Madeline (whose brother is missing, what is it that Sutton did to him?), Laurel (Sutton's sister, she has a crush on Thayer, the missing boy), Lillianna and Gabriella (The Twitter Twins, they are sort of in the circle of friends but not allowed membership into The Lying Game).

Emma is thinking she has got herself into a bit more than she can handle when it comes to this group of friends and she also thinks they all have a motive for murder. Emma also doesn't have the same taste in boys because she is not really that fond of Garrett, Suttons boyfriend. She likes Ethan, he is more of a loner like herself and she gets him more than she does anybody else.

The Lying Game really had me wrapped up into the whole deception and drama of everything that happens in the book. The more Emma learns about Sutton, the more she wonders what Sutton has really gotten herself into. Its sort of like who are these people really?? Why would anyone want to be a part of this group of people and who really killed Sutton? I couldn't wait to get to the end but then I should have known it was going to be part of a series. :( I don't mind series, but I hate waiting to find out what happens.

I am sure if your a fan of Pretty Little Liars then you will probably like The Lying Game. I would recommend it to those who like books like this. I really enjoyed it more than I thought I would and can't wait for the next book to come out.
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on December 22, 2010
Seventeen-year-old Emma Paxton knew the love of a family for a brief time, but then her mother abandoned her at the age of five. Emma has lived in the foster care system ever since, unwanted and yearning for a family's love. Then she sees a video from the Internet of a person who looks exactly like her, and discovers she has a long-lost twin named Sutton. She quickly travels to Arizona to meet her sister, but Sutton is nowhere to be found.

And nobody seems to notice that Sutton is gone. Everyone who sees Emma assumes she's Sutton, and Emma goes along with it for the moment. Then she receives a mysterious note stating that Sutton is dead. The anonymous killer warns Emma to pretend to be Sutton, or else she will be the next victim.

But it's not so easy to slip into someone else's life, even a long-lost twin's. Sutton turns out to be completely different from Emma. Adopted into a rich family, she wants for nothing and is a bit of a brat to match the spoiled image; she often slams her adopted sister, Laurel, who idolizes her. She runs with the popular crowd, though she doesn't seem to treat her friends any better than her family. In fact, she and her friends play something they call the Lying Game, which involves playing pranks on each other, many of which are cruel and demeaning. Could one of these brutal pranks have gone wrong, resulting in Sutton's death?

Sutton doesn't know either, unsure of anything anymore. Ever since she died, her memory is sketchy and empty. For some reason, her spirit has attached to Emma, like she's sitting on Emma's shoulder, seeing everything Emma sees, but helpless to do anything or even tell Emma she's there. So she watches the mystery unfold, clueless as to who murdered her, and horrified to realize that everyone is a suspect, including her own friends and family.

Coming off the heels of her bestselling Pretty Little Liars novels, Sara Shepard introduces a new series to her fans. She takes a unique approach to a story involving long-lost twins by murdering one of the siblings from the very beginning. In this fascinating premise, Shepard proves she is a master at suspense, with the plot quickly growing and building with mysterious threats, unlimited suspects, and creepy insights into the dark side of the human psyche. She also has a wonderful gift for description, bringing the story to life for all the senses.

Despite instances of teen drinking and smoking in the novel, fans will be excited to know that NEVER HAVE I EVER, a follow-up to THE LYING GAME, is on the way.

--- Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman, author of FINDING MY LIGHT
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VINE VOICEon June 12, 2012
I've read the first 5 books in the Pretty Little Liars series and LOVE them. 35yo female here folks! Fun, trashy YA lit at it's finest. So I was pretty excited for another series from that same author. The concept for this book seemed pretty good. As soon as I got the book I dived right in. Immediately I was disappointed. Right from the beginning the story is confusing. You don't know as a reader that the story is being told from the POV of the dead sister. It jumps back and forth from the living sister to the dead sister. Not from chapter to chapter but from paragraph to paragraph. Sometimes this can be done and not be confusing but in this case it's an epic fail. Totally confusing and distracting from the story. The other huge disappointment was that after reading the whole book we learn absolutely nothing. There wasn't even really a good cliffhanger that left me wanting more. We still don't know who offed Sutton so I'll probably read the next book but will be checking it out from the library rather than spending any money on it.
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on October 4, 2011
When I first saw the preview for the Lying Game television show on ABC Family, I have to say I was a little skeptical at first. However, when I too a chance at viewing the pilot episode, I was hooked. Since the script was so well written in the show, I figured the books would be the same. So I immediatley purchased a copy of the first book in the series. Upon reading the first chapter, I was very dissapointed at the narrative. I found it confusing to have the already deceased twin telling the story. This has been done before in previous books such as The Lovely Bones. However, in "bones" the writing was well directed, clear and straightforward. In The Lying Game Novel, the narrator jumps back and forth, which makes it appear to be disjointed and all over the place. I promptly closed this book and sent it back to Amazon.com for a full refund. I then resumed watching the Lying Game television series, which I have to say is much more suspenseful, plotted and well written than the novels.
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on February 14, 2015
amazing, awesome, in credible book. i am not someone who is a reader but i wanted to read this series ecause i watched the show based on it and the show got canceled on a huge cliffhanger and i wanted to know how it ended turns out the books other than the characters names are VERY different from the show huge plot points changed but in spite if that i fell in love with these books. i loved the show when it was on i though it was amazing but after reading the books im like "wow the show sucks in comparison maybe if the show had been more like the books than it wouldn't have gotten canceled" i am on book 5 now and it is an addictive series i definitely recommend this book!!
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on August 8, 2015
I was really surprised with these books.They were really written well and kept you guessing to the end.I got interested in the TV series, which except for the names of the characters, is completely different.I enjoyed the books but would have liked it better if it was more like the TV series that way I would know what happened and who did what.The TV series left everyone hanging and cancelled the show.SHAME ON THEM!!!
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on June 19, 2011
from Murphy's Library

Sutton Mercer is a bitch--at least used to be. I'm sorry, but there's no better word to describe her. We start The Lying Game with Sutton finding out she's dead--well, actually, she's a ghost. A ghost no one can see or hear but us. She wakes up in the middle of a bathroom and see a girl who looks exactly like her. Soon, she learns this is Emma--and it seems Emma and Sutton are sisters, twins, actually--and Emma's life is nothing even close to Sutton's.

Sutton can't remember a lot about her own life--but she does remember she doesn't know about her lost twin sister--, and now she's following Emma wherever the girl goes. Emma's in trouble when her foster brother steals money from her foster mother and puts it into Emma's purse. It is just another foster home, Emma's been in tons of them, and soon she'll turn 18 and won't need to keep trying to fit into any other family. But when the boy shows her a video of a girl being strangled--a girl who looks exactly like her--, she starts wondering if it's possible the girl is her sister.

With the internet's help, she finds out the girl's Sutton, and send her a message on Facebook. Soon, there's an answer--asking her to meet Sutton on the day after. There's only one problem--that Emma has no idea about it--, Sutton has never got that message, because she's dead. Period. Sutton's ghost is pretty sure about it. Things go crazy when Emma is waiting for Sutton and Sutton's friend show up, calling her Sutton. It happens that Sutton has asked Emma to not tell anyone about each other, so Emma tries to be nice and plays along when Sutton's friends drag her to a party. Soon, Emma learns that Sutton isn't around--actually, an anonymous note tells her Sutton's dead, and if she doesn't keep pretending to be her twin, she's gonna be the next.

Confusing, isn't it? Well, it gets worse. Emma soon realizes that Sutton wasn't the best person, or the best friend someone could ever had around. Her lost twin and her girls have what they call The Lying Game, some kind of game where they make pranks. The problem is: they make it to other people, and they make it to each other.

Emma knows she's in danger, whoever killed Sutton has been watching her. She can trust nobody--and she can't tell anyone who she really is, although she's tried, nobody believes--, and she needs to keep lying to everyone, she needs to pretend she's someone she's never met before. Sutton had everything Emma always dreamed about: she has a family that loves her--even though they know Sutton isn't the best person in the world--, she's popular, she's a boyfriend and a group of friends--who're as bitch as Sutton, but, well, they kinda deserve each other, in my opinion...

We see the entire story through Sutton's ghosts eyes, although we're always following Emma's steps. Sutton's ghost gets some flashbacks from some things Emma sees--so there are a few flashbacks chapters--, and we clearly see how different the sisters are. Even if sometimes Sutton's ghost questions things about herself as Emma learns more about her, it's there, you can see it.

The Lying Game did not reach my expectations. I was expecting much more of this book--I haven't read anything from Shepard before it, but I saw people saying it's way much better than Pretty Little Liars. I've watched the TV series, but it never really got me, so I was kind of expecting the book to do it. Unfortunately, it didn't. Probably because I found myself frustrated with the ending: it kinda got you nowhere...

I always try to avoid spoilers on my reviews, and rereading this one to make sure I haven't tell anything that compromise the reading, I found myself asking what I didn't tell about the story. Honestly, there's only one twist that I haven't mentioned here--and that's it. I'm going to read Never Have I Ever, the second book on this series, in hopes that this story will get better.
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