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Friday, October 23, 2015

Little White Lies Brings Engaging Characters, Trending Topic

Little White Lies, Brianna Baker & F. Bowman Hastie III (Soho Teen)

Addendum:  This was one of my earliest posts and I was trying hard to be very positive in everything I wrote at that time.  I still think it's important to be positive (as opposed to pointlessly negative and picky), but there were always a few additional things that bothered me about this post and this book.  In rolling past it again today, I just had to add them in.  

First and foremost, I would emphasize that the best part of this book to me is still that it starts so strongly with Karl and Coretta as key characters and especially their interaction.  I enjoyed that, even when it consisted of avoidance rather than actual contact. BUT 1) the over-the-top villains -- although well-described -- were pretty hard to take seriously.  And 2) when I said "compelling to the end," I was conveniently ignoring the epilogue.  That section was mysteriously pat and didactic and delivered by ... whom?  Not the character I was expecting to hear from, and it felt awkward.  That's it.  I'm done now.

Little White Lies is a trip into the thrills and hazards of the blogosphere with high school honor student Coretta and ghost-blogger Karl, as her blog takes off and he is paid to help her star rise.  But when the comet that is Little White Lies attracts the attention of media moguls, and Coretta struggles to cope with the pressure, the entire fragile framework of this new world begins to fall apart.  Watching Coretta and Karl, as well as their friends and family, respond to this threat is entertaining, but you might just prefer to hang out with Coretta and Karl and chat a while.


As Little White Lies opens, the Real Money Phone (R$$P) is ringing and our ghost-writing, super-blogging, web-jumping, information-dealing, self-proclaimed Dark Lord of the Twittersphere Karl is up and displaying his ego and his cherished phobias all at once as he juggles the opportunity to assist another overwhelmed web creature in bringing his or her message to the world.  Karl is in a position to ask for, and get, plenty of payment for his services, and he is not really challenged by the usual job these days, having farmed out most of his excess blogging/tweeting work to his own minions, but the possibility of working for the blogger he describes as Noprah (sadly, not Oprah) is too fascinating to turn down.  If he could work for this new, up-and-coming princess of the blogosphere, someone who has already caught his attention, well then ….  He is more than intrigued.

From our first view of sweet smart Coretta at the breakfast table, multi-tasking her way through her high school days, I was fascinated, too.  Despite the fact that she is living a dream life – rich, lovely to look at, “black Ken” boyfriend (she said it first!), smart, successful and loving parents -- I found her to be a very sympathetic character.  She takes a dim view of the self-satisfaction and injustice she sees around her and wants to speak out, and she has the smarts to do it.  Her posts are sharp, funny and off-the-cuff, but there is a lot of humility to Coretta, too.  Going on this crazy ride with her is exhilarating, even though it feels increasingly impossible to keep up.  I mean, how could it not be?  I just wanted to hang out with her and see what she would do and say next.

When Karl and Coretta get together, that’s sharp, too.  Their strange mix-of-worlds relationship is well-played, and the voices feel separate but true.  The first phone call between 40-something white/Caucasian Karl and 17-year-old African-American Coretta is really great as the two circle carefully.  Karl speaks the language of white sensitivity and tries some humor, while Coretta remains cautiously straightforward (Okayy? Wait, really?).  Perfect.  Also the great texting passage between Karl and Coretta where Karl is trying to make a point sarcastically and Coretta just doesn’t bite?  Funny!  Sometimes teens can be so busy refusing to crack a smile with adults.  It’s all … #nofoolin from Coretta when they chat at first, and that feels right.

I also liked the relationship between Rachel and Coretta.  Not because I was just so snowed by its adorable “from birth” quality or the fact that they are another oddball touch of diversity in this book.  No.  All that was fine, albeit having a bit of a been-there-done-that quality.  My favorite thing about the girls is that, although some wrinkles do develop in the relationship -- pretty natural when a serious bond meets the wall of irresistible fame – we don’t have to go through yet another breakdown of a central friendship, just to pull it back together at the end.  There is a different quality to this relationship that feels (again!) more true, snotty noses and all.  It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t end on a whim or a misspoken word just to isolate the heroine.  Thank you, Baker and Hastie for saving me one more pointless friend break-up!

Elements I didn’t love about the book were mostly not really bad so much as they were just not as good as the standard set by the rest of the book.  For instance, the parents at first seemed just sweet and lovely, but then their continuing perfection began to wear on me, or maybe it was as the perfect parents piled on, one after the other, that the annoyance started.  Barbies and Clair Huxtable, indeed!  They flick an eyebrow here and there, but except for Coretta’s father making one lone (and humorous) comment questioning Karl’s moral fiber, no real unpleasantness is allowed to be on offer.  None!  Then again, they aren’t entirely perfect; all those attorneys and no one stopped Coretta from signing the contract that let her lose control of her own web identity?  Thanks, Dad!

And the villains were excessively villain-y, but then … who doesn’t love to have a great target to aim at, especially one that is culled from the ranks of actual history.  [Yes, you can google it.]

One thing I did take issue with was Karl’s ridiculous and self-destructive behavior – when he knows he's being filmed.  This felt like it was just a plot device to make him as personally involved as Coretta in the outcome.  Without ringing too many spoiler bells here, let’s just say that this was a very silly episode in many ways.  I kept re-reading parts of it looking for an explanation.  Hmm ... nope ... nope.

Little White Lies is best and most engaging when we are up close and personal with Coretta and Karl, as they are each clearly defined and make for great entertainment.  It suffers very little from the blips of unreality mainly because Coretta and Karl feel so real.  Their oddball pairing and interactions are at the heart of Little White Lies and make this a story a compelling read to the end.


  1. I hadn't heard of Little White Lies, but it sounds like I need to read it! As a blogger, I'm immediately drawn to any book involving blogging, and Coretta sounds like an absolutely stunning character. Plus, her relationships seem equally fascinating. The parents do sound a bit annoying (although I firmly believe that YA needs more positive parental relationships), but that would only be a minor issue for me. Thanks for putting this book on my radar!

    1. Hey Emily! I agree that Coretta is stunning (great word choice!), and actually when I was reading about her relationship with her parents from inside her head, I found it entirely 3-D and quite touching. It was the others that seemed simplistic by comparison and the full complement was just a little too much perfect!

      By the way, I checked out your two (!!) blogs and they are lovely. Just wow. In looking around, I have found it difficult to find other "teens reviewing teen" sites that could compare. Hope you don't mind another follower ... Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and I would love to compare further notes if you read the book!