The real secret to Todd Mitchell’s book, The Secret to Lying, is that while it is shelved in the teen fiction section most adults would probably find it just as enjoyable and relevant. The story follows James Turner as he attempts to find a balance between who he is and who he wants to be. Invisible and ignored, James gets an opportunity to reinvent himself when he goes to a new school. His yearning to be noticed leads him to lie about his past and who he is, and as the lies snowball his eccentric bad-boy persona balloons until his true self becomes all but lost.
Perhaps one of the most surprising things about this book is how radically it departs from what one might expect. While the plot is fairly typical, the prose and world it is set within are not. James frequently retreats into his dreams, which are far more bizarre and Burroughs-esque than one would ever expect. Disturbing and strange interior worlds mix with James’ crafted lies to form a collage of teen apprehension. When the only real thing in James’ world is the friendship he forms online with an unnamed person, reality becomes strangely fragile, vacant, and reflective, like a house formed of mirrors and windows.
While part of the charm of this book is in the characters and their adventures, what really makes the book pop is the snappy dialogue, solid prose, and honest heart. At its core this book is a foray into the absurd mixed with the grounded reality (and pain) of finding oneself and growing up. For a book all about the lies we tell to each other and ourselves this may be one of the most honest books I’ve had the pleasure of reading.