"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis
No doubt that Mind Games was a highly polarizing novel. Most of my blogger friends disliked it, but it seemed like literary publications generally praised Mind Games (I believe one publication had called it a tour de force), and I personally liked it and was curious as to where White would take the plot. So, when I saw Perfect Lies on Edelweiss, I decided why not.
I nearly cried reading this novel. Me! Maybe in my entire life, I've cried like three times when reading books, and one of them even felt like I was squeezing stuff out just because everyone else had (yes, I'm looking at you, The Fault in Our Stars). But Perfect Lies was sad and built on the emotional intensity of its predecessor. I'm a firm believer that writers who take risks come out with better work, and it's clear that White has taken a lot of risks with this... and yes, they worked.
1. (+) Fia, a protagonist - Fia was always my favorite of the two girls mostly because she was off the rocker. I loved how her neurotic perspective, her fragile balance on reality and her "perfect" instinct (and thus ability to physically survive) meshed with something so simple: her love for her sister. She was half a femme fatale, and half a confused teenager who's not entirely sane because people are constantly trying to take advantage of her and her abilities. And she's that way again, except getting much worse in the head as she gets deeper into the Keane school and conspiracy. Also, this is random, but it gets explained why she does that specific number of taps. I don't know if that was in the previous novel, but that made me happy.
2. (+) Annie, a protagonist - YES! This is what I wanted. In Mind Games, Annie frustrated me because she let other people take care of her and wasn't as active a character as Fia was. I wanted her to have more agency, and that's what happened. Mind Games was Fia's novel; Perfect Lies was Annie's. Her stable, loving, accepting perspective balanced out Fia's chaotic one, and Annie learns to fight for what she wants and becomes as fierce and competent and action oriented as her sister. Here's a perfect line for her growth in this novel (p. 74 in the e-ARC; can change in final copy): "I've spent most of my life feeling helpless. Being made to feel helpless. I'm done feeling like that."
3. (+) Plot - Here's where I have a question for you: can you just go with a novel? Mind Games and Perfect Lies rely on alternating perspectives and alternating timelines. As withMind Games, at first, I tried keeping track of the time frame but knew that I would just get myself confused and continued to read without thinking of the time, trusting that White and her editor had chosen these chapters to be aligned in a specific way. And letting go of my attempts to orient myself in the time frame undoubtedly helped with my understanding of what was going on, and allowed me to notice the logical pattern for why things were arranged the way they were. Like if you're shown that Annie has a vision and someone new is here, Kiersten White will explain why that person is there in the next chapter, even if it means jumping to three weeks prior to the climax. The little reminders of the time mostly serve as a good reminder of the fact that the climax is coming; that the tension is building toward that final moment. And oh, the beauty of an unreliable narrator and unreliable paranormal powers (well, in the sense that Annie's visions may or may not change...). Kiersten White takes full advantage of that. This is cleverly plotted and executed, and it's been a long time since a thriller has managed to surprise me with its twists, but White's novel sure did just that.
4. (+) Romance - Down below you'll read about the parallels in this book, and the romance was definitely one of the ways this was showcased. The dark v. light romance was shown in the last novel with regard to Fia and her choices for the future, but in this novel, Annie gets to have her chance at some romance... And it's adorable. I'm a fan of how White developed the romance between the two characters in question, allowing them to get know each other before revealing all, and there's no doubt it makes for great comparison to Fia's romance and to the bloody action of the novel.
5. (+) Parallels - Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this novel was noting how clearly everything in this novel was paralleled and made perfect for comparison. Annie and Fia - Annie's steadier inner voice, growing stronger as Fia begins to spiral out of control; the friendships and romances each girl has and the way they both neatly and messily align; the fact that Annie is blind and able to see visions of future that she can't change, and the fact that Fia is the only one who can change the future but who doesn't always change things for the better, no matter how much she might believe otherwise, etc. etc.
6. (+/-) Characters - This is where I'd suggest the publisher put these novels into an omnibus. It's been over a year since I read Mind Games, and starting out Perfect Lies, I no longer remembered who all the characters were. Some of them were involved in key plot twists, and though White refers to some of those twists to remind readers of what happened, I still didn't quite remember who certain characters were. These novels are heavily plot-oriented, minus their focus on Fia and Annie, so other characters falling into the background is not entirely surprising, but can be combated by selling the novels together. (PS - if you're going to read this novel, you may want to skim either your copy of Mind Games or your review as a refresher because this novel wastes no time before moving forward with its plot.).
7. (+/-) The Ending - This is my main issue with the book. It felt like I'd just started to accept what had actually happened and then the novel was over. The ending works with the thriller feel and with everything else that happens, especially the fast-paced action, but I just wanted a little more... resolution? Slowing down of the pace just for a bit?
8. (+) The Writing - There were a few moments when I thought eh, that sentence wasn't necessary, but otherwise the writing is kept very tight, sharp and fast-paced. It's not typically beautiful, but it's practical and purposeful, and works really well with the dark thriller vibe. Kiersten White also does a good job differentiating Annie and Fia's voices.
9. (+) Pacing - If you're going to read this novel, clear out a few hours to read the entire thing without stopping. Perfect Lies is short but a perfect length because the pacing is quick and the book entirely taut with tension to keeps things moving.
10. (+) The Cover - Although I am more of a fan of the Mind Games cover, this one is still striking to me, and I like that it gives more of a "thoughtful" feel than the sort of desperation in the previous photograph (interpreting too much? Perhaps. Whatever, they're beautiful covers, and I have no idea how else the publishers would have portrayed the duology).
Action and thriller oriented readers should definitely pick up Perfect Lies. As a fast-paced paranormal thriller, Perfect Lies distinguishes itself from all the others that I've read. If you're a more character oriented reader or get frustrated with sometimes simplistic or repetitive writing (Fia likes to repeat things over and over in her head), you might not like this novel. But if you're looking for something that's got a lot of clever plot twists and manages to make you care about twin sisters who really would do anything for each other...well, give this one a chance, even if you weren't a fan of Mind Games.