Lying Out Loud
A Companion to The Duff
Scholastic Press, May 2015
Sonny is a liar and a relatively unlikable character. The reader shouldn’t care about her story or become quickly invested, but I was intrigued. The tug was inexplicable, yet unavoidable—I just knew that there had to be something deep driving the deceit.
Her father incarcerated and her maternal parental unit unaccounted for, it is easy to be empathetic….up to a point; but the level—constant layering of lies— becomes incomprehensible. I wanted to reach into the pages to shake someone, while almost equally powerful was the desire to offer comfort, promise understanding and open-mindedness and just to get to the bottom of it.
While I couldn’t actually do that (this is not a choose-your-adventure-book); Amy’s parents did that very thing and it was spectacular. There was more to Sonny’s saga, and it was unexpected. Of course, a lying lifestyle cannot be condoned. Sonny owes apologies. She must make amends and be prepared to grant time for trust to develop again; but her behavior has been explained, allowing her the opportunity for growth, and eventually…acceptance.
Lying Out Loud isn’t a somber, heavy tale. On the contrary, I worry about it being dismissed or overlooked. At a blush, it seems such a simple little story about the angst of high school, best friends and a boy. Sonny is a funny girl and many of her lies are quite comical; besides, how can I not find affection for the girl who named her car “Gert”? The quiet, thoughtful consideration of her best friend, Amy, brings balance; but let me not forget about Ryder. The quintessential boy-in-the-middle is rarely written so well.
To Sonny, he’s “…always dressed as if he was on his way to a concert for a band no one had ever heard of” and she considers him almost aloof….if she were to overlook his blatant disdain for his new home town. Ryder seems unreachable and it’s no surprise he has eyes only for Amy; but it’s Sonny that cracks his veneer, revealing deep secrets such as, he “sometimes writes like an actual teen-ager.”
This book evokes emotions—all of them—and the story speeds along. It works so well because the Rush family provides a solid foundation. It is Sonny’s story, but Ryder’s self-realization is a sweet supporting side-bar. Even the impeccable Amy finds room for a bit of growth. Though it is about a liar, the tale is honest, courageous, heart-breaking and hopeful.
Reviewed by jv poore, July 2016.