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This Story Is a Lie


This Story Is a Lie

Peter Blankman has enough on his mind. Barely able to keep his frequent anxiety attacks at bay, he relies on his mother and sister as his support system, the whirling panic in his mind always threatening to claw its past his defenses. His latest fear is his mother’s award ceremony, the sum of her years of work. Though he expected that getting through the crowds and media would be a struggle, he never calculated that the ceremony would end with an assassination attempt on his mother, leaving her bleeding on the floor, with no evidence of her attacker.

Now, Peter finds himself tangled in the variables of the mysterious attack, following hints and instinct in an attempt to figure out who attacked his mother and why. As he steps further into the mystery, Peter struggles to take hold of his fear --- and the truth. When he can’t even factor out the influence of his own mind on his investigation, how can he solve the assassination attempt on his own? In a world where truths turn out to be lies just as often as they hold fast, Peter must navigate shifting circumstances in order to uncover reality.

"Tom Pollock’s gripping novel combines a thrilling story with visceral writing.... The tornado of Peter’s thoughts and reactions to the events around him surrounds and immerses Pollock’s audience in the story. "

Tom Pollock’s gripping novel combines a thrilling story with visceral writing, the two features working to grip --- and hold --- the reader’s attention. The prose of THIS STORY IS A LIE has a violent quality, not violence in the traditional sense, but an unhinged, intense, vivid style of writing that stems both from the genre and Peter’s own struggles. The tornado of Peter’s thoughts and reactions to the events around him surrounds and immerses Pollock’s audience in the story. However, though the writing pulls the reader in, the pacing isn’t always as satisfying: the quieter moments of the novel sometimes start to tip from a refreshing moment of clarity into a frustrating slowness.

Peter’s mental illness amplifies the intensity of the narrative, as he feels himself torn apart from the inside and the outside. Pollock writes mental illness as only someone who has struggled with it can, portraying the force of mental illness and the reality of coping with it. Even as he weaves an intricate story, Pollock deftly details Peter’s life with mental illness and how it relates to his identity. One of the most brilliant concepts in the story is Peter’s relationship with mathematics, and how he gravitates towards a field that holds certainty, in order to combat the uncertainty that he faces in his own mind. Part of the exploration of Peter’s identity comes in the form of flashbacks, as the reader sees the development of his relationship to his mental illness. The flashbacks are done in a seamless manner ---- sometimes the final words of a chapter will lead into a flashback, so it feels more like the story is told in a natural way, how the brain would work, rather than an artificial, constructed pattern designed to suit the author’s own plans.

Outside of Peter’s head, the mystery of the novel presents layers of twists, leaving the reader always questioning and refining the “truth.” While this obscurity is satisfying throughout the story, the ending lacks a sense of closure, making it both infuriating and fitting. All of Pollock’s characters have a moral ambiguity that both makes the mystery harder to solve and leaves the door open for new revelations. However, this does leave the plot often twisted in a way that draws away from a central purpose --- as Peter’s objectives are always shifting, it can be hard for the reader to stay invested, because the action seems to veer off course, lacking a defining path that allows the reader a foundation as the story progresses.

Overall, in THIS STORY IS A LIE, Tom Pollock presents a fast-paced thriller meant for older audiences --- the detail of Peter’s struggles and the morally complex nature of many of the characters caters more to older teens. For readers looking for an intense story with more questions than answers, Pollock delivers a stunning novel with plenty of twists.

Reviewed by Rachel R., Teen Board Member on August 14, 2018

This Story Is a Lie
by Tom Pollock

  • Publication Date: August 7, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Teen
  • ISBN-10: 1616959118
  • ISBN-13: 9781616959111