Review: Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Genre: young-adult, mystery, thriller
Series: N/A
Pages: 436 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: August 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.75/5

A shocking, ambitious mystery full of twists and turns from the globally embraced author of Between.

Rachel and Alice are an extremely rare kind of identical twins—so identical that even their aunt and uncle, whom they've lived with since their parents passed away, can't tell them apart. But the sisters are connected in a way that goes well beyond their surfaces: when one experiences pain, the other exhibits the exact same signs of distress. So when one twin mysteriously disappears, the other immediately knows something is wrong-especially when she starts experiencing serious physical traumas, despite the fact that nobody has touched her. As the search commences to find her sister, the twin left behind must rely on their intense bond to uncover the truth. But is there anyone around her she can trust, when everyone could be a suspect? And ultimately, can she even trust herself?

Master storyteller Jessica Warman will keep readers guessing when everything they see-and everything they are told-suddenly becomes unreliable in this page-turning literary thriller.

This review is going to get SPOILERY so be warned! DO NOT READ if you don't want some of the twists and turns known before reading. I am trying to keep the spoilers minor, but I am serious -- I'd hate to ruin a novel for another reader, but this is your official warning to turn back!

Beautiful Lies is one of those mysteries with a great premise: twins, a special bond, an abduction, and an unreliable narrator to spin the whole tale, making both the readers and the characters unsure of what exactly is going on. Certain segments in this novel were executed in a deliciously creeeeepy and uncertain manner, and while other areas lacked that atmosphere and level of execution, overall, this is a pretty good read, and a well-written mystery. There are several twists, surprises that I did not see coming -- a fact that is all to rare when I venture into the YA mystery/thriller genre and is greatly appreciated when it does manage to happen. I was occasionally confused by the shifts, changes in the direction of the story, but the author always managed to reel me right back in. Jessica Warman impressed me for the majority of this longish novel, and I will be on the lookout for her other books.

This is far more of a character-driven novel, though the plot holds its own for the most part. Thankfully for a less than actiontastic novel, the characters of Beautiful Lies are usually the best part of it, specifically the two protagonists of Rachel and Alice. For a novel that stalls in momentum occasionally, these two characters often pick up the slack and keep the reader engaged and curious about their uncertain fate. I wouldn't say I was completely invested in these characters the way I am with other protagonists (like Sophie Quinn from If I Lie, etc.) but they are dynamic, and interesting in their connection and possible mental issues. Rachel and Alice's unique/psychic affinity for one another, their rare condition --monochorionic monoamniotic twins --  help to add up to create two very similar, but different and dynamic characters as well as an original storyline. Identity and the self are two very big themes within Beautiful Lies, and the author explores these ideas with her two almost codependent main characters. As Warman repeatedly shows through the changing nature of the twins' relationship, Rachel and Alice learn that you can be extremely close to someone else and still not really know them completely. 

I had a few issues with the pacing in the novel, most notably as the mystery wore on and red herrings kept popping up. This clocks in at about 420 pages in the final edition, and while the majority of the narrative kept the tension high and the atmosphere on point, several sections lacked the pull of others. A little editing/excising would do well to make the entire novel as riveting as the first two seventy-five and the last fifty pages are. (The whole sidestory of the cats? Felt especially random and ill-suited for the rest of the novel.) Though the final antagonist became clearer to me the more I read, I really appreciated how much work the author put into occluding who was behind Rachel's disappearance and Alice's phantom injuries. The twins identity switcheroo, the MacGuffin of the "$10,000", the unreliable narrator, the new uncovered secrets and deceptions -- all were deftly handled to make the mystery harder to solve. Far too many novels telegraph twists and the big bad too early on -- and this is NOT one of them. I may have figured it all out before the big reveal and Alice herself, but it wasn't until the late 300's that I did. 

My last note is on the ending: for such a longwinded and twisty novel, I found the end to be rushed and slightly anticlimactic. The antagonist gives himself away quite easily to Alice, and I was pretty surpised the author gave it up that quickly in the final pages. The clues add up and are figured out so slowly, and then it seems like the book enters a headlong rush just to get to the end. With so much time and prose spent executing the set-up and rising action, the lack of real resolution, and that with more than a few unanswered loose ends (like.... how is it that Rachel survived? Why didn't the killer just off the cop so he'd have more time with the twins and to getaway?), felt like a misstep to me.  Like I said earlier, this wasn't a perfect read, and outside of the pacing issues, those dangling questions are a large majority of the reason why I can't rate this higher than a 3.75/5.

I really liked Beautiful Lies, though it wasn't a perfect read for me. The author impressed me with her skill, her storytelling, the mystery, and her ability to craft well-rounded characters. If you're looking for a well-done, character-driven mystery with a genuine air of creepiness, look no further than here. I am becoming a large fan of the unreliable narrator for novels -- as long as it is handled as easily and smartly as it is here. I have to note that the cover is absolutely perfect -- like the cover of What's Left of Me -- the hint of a second person in the negative space fits in with the novel and with the twins' life of mobile identity.


  1. Avoiding reading for spoil purposes. Thanks for posting that, I hate with spoilers are given away!

    1. No problem! I hate it when that happens too, so I thought I would give fair warning. If only I knew how to html spoiler links like on GoodReads!

  2. Fantastic review, Jessie! I actually have this one since I won it with a prize pack, but I'm not very keen on reading it. While you did enjoy it, I'm not in the mood for a mystery and pacing is becoming a big problem for me these days as well. I might give it a shot sometime in the future though, so thanks for the helpful review! :D

    Ivy Book Bindings

    1. Thanks! And yeah, if you are not into the story or the mystery being set up so slowly, the pacing here can really be a killer (hahaha). It's a fun and creeper read, but not one I think is a must-read!

  3. Hmm, I didn't read the review to avoid being spoilered, but should I give this one a try?

    1. The spoilers are minor and are ones that are revealed pretty early on, but I am glad to have not ruined it for anyone yet!

      And... hmmm.. this is a decent read, I enjoyed it, bit I didn't love it. I don't really think you'd be missing much. It's fun to try and figure out what's going on with the twins/who the killer is, but I am sure there are other books you'd rather read in the time it takes to finish this one.


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