Title: The Big Lie
Author: Julie Mayhew
Genre: Teen, Political, Alternate history
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
In all honestly I should have DNF'd this book. I made the mistake of continuing to think it was going somewhere. I love dystopian books and so this alternate 'history' of the Nazi's winning WWII and what that regime would look like post-2000 sounded like a brilliant premise. And it probably still is. So two stars for a good idea; but only two stars for poor execution.
The Missing Plot
Unfortunately Julie Mayhew didn't deliver any solid plot or story. Instead The Big Lie is just a telling of how the world is and one girls 'participation' in said dystopian world. Nothing really happens. Many things seem like they are about to happen and when one really huge thing does transpire 2/3 of the way through the book the narrative that comes after is just confusing and frustrating.
I feel a bit like a broken record on this but plot is important! It's not enough to tell the story of someone existing in a certain world. I want to know what drives, excites, worries, pleases, etc. them given the context of the world they live in. Characters need a driving force. And while yes there are many real people who may have no real passion or movement in their lives when you take that type of a person and drop them in a story they are a dull, boring and frustrating character. A poor choice for the lead heroine for sure.
If you've read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas then you're going to know what I say when I talk about obscure references. The boy in that story says "Out-With" to refer to Auschwitz. Due to his age he is unable to say the name correctly. Within about three pages of the weird wording an aha moment happens for most readers and they catch on to what the boy is actually saying. This is done for a handful of terms quite effectively with the child’s voice.
Mayhew did not achieve this aha moment for me with her obscure and varying descriptions or inferences to situations. I did not at all understand that an X on a girls belly meant that she would be sterilized until 100 pages AFTER the reference was first made. I'd like to think I am not that slow or inattentive of a reader that I missed some key clue. Instead I think a lot was expected to be inferred. So much so that at times I reread chapters twice to make sure I didn't miss some hint or tip about what they were actually talking about. Obscurity done well is a wonderful story telling mechanism. But done poorly it can be the downfall of an entire book. For The Big Lie it falls down a long ladder of missed nuances for me.
I really wanted to like our lead heroine. I really did. But by the end of the book I just wanted to torture her into submission. Ironic given some of the things that happen in the last 1/3 of the story... Indoctrination is a very dangerous thing and it can be done without you ever realizing it's happened. Take school shootings... they have become such a common occurance in the USA that they are barely reported on anymore. And if they are reported on it's only for a day, maybe two. In the past people would be obsessed with a school shooting incident for months, possibly even years. But we have become desensitized, normalized, or even indoctrinated (depending on how you view media) to accept that school shootings happen and that's just the way it is. This is what politics can do to society when they simply 'ignore' an issue.
If there is one thing to take from this book it’s how easy it is to fall prey to the indoctrination when everyone around you is pushing it. One voice of reason is not enough. I guess in the end I’m annoyed and ultimately disappointed by our heroines inability to even grasp what could have been. Maybe that’s the point Mayhew is making; that we are all likely to be failures in our lives about issues we know are wrong. If that is the message I still think it’s not worth getting from this narrative.
In the End
Maybe my point above about the indoctrination is what Mayhew wanted to really say to her readers. If that is the case then she certainly managed to get the point across. Unfortunately it was done in an annoying and unproductive way. I would not recommend this book to even the most politically interested of readers as I don't think it says anything new and it certainly didn't appeal to me at either the story, plot, character or political level.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.