Dangerous Lies

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Dangerous Lies Book Poster Image
So-so teen romance-thriller has addiction themes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some facts about Nebraska and cultural insight into rural life there. Brief explanation of how the witness protection program works and its effect on those in it.

Positive Messages

Holding on to bitterness and anger is more harmful to you than the reason for your anger. You can't outrun your past, although most people spend their lives trying to. Drugs take away your ability to care about anything except more drugs.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stella starts out angry and resentful and trying not to care too much about others as a way of protecting herself emotionally. She acts out and is rebellious, but she matures into understanding that she has to do the right thing even if it's hard. She also wants to stop being reactive to events in her life and take control of herself. She doesn't like having to lie about herself, even though it's for her own safety, and she doesn't want to hurt those she gets close to. Chet is the ideal boyfriend and all-American guy. Foster mother Carmina is stern and strict but cares deeply about Stella and wants to help her stay on the right path.

Violence

Stella revisits a past murder in her mind many times with brief descriptions of lots of blood, a hole blown in the forehead, and pieces of the victim spattered. A couple of fights and attacks mention punches, kicks, and resulting pain. Stella faces an attacker with a gun, gunshots are heard, and the attacker puts a knife to her throat.

Sex

A joke involves speculation that two boys propositioned their sister. A minor teen character is pregnant. A man grabs his crotch. A college student describes campus life as more about random hookups than commitment. Kissing and heavy making out include descriptions of physical sensations. Sex between the older teen main characters is implied but not narrated directly.

Language

Infrequent use of "butt," "balls" in sexual innuendo, "douche," "dammit," "crap," "bitchy," "asshole," "hell," "ass," and "damn."

Consumerism

Bands, fast-food places, car makes and models, and stores establish character, mood, and location. Coke and Mountain Dew several times.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An underage teen gets an adult to buy beer for him. A teen villain behaves drunkenly. A church fundraiser has a wine pull. Frequent reference to mother's drug addiction. All main characters have a drug-addicted family member; negative consequences for the addict's loved ones is a major theme. Several characters lost family members to drunk-driving accidents. OxyContin mentioned several times, and Lortab mentioned once in drug-addiction context. Heroin use and grinding OxyContin into a powder so it enters the bloodstream faster each mentioned once.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dangerous Lies is a teen romance-thriller by the author of the Hush, Hush saga. This one's thoroughly grounded in some harsh realities, though, such as 17-year-old Stella having to take care of her mother, who's a drug addict. Drug and alcohol addiction affect a number of important characters, and the pain and trauma inflicted on loved ones is a major theme. Stella witnessed a murder, and the aftermath and body are briefly described with lots of blood and spattered remains. Other violence includes a few fights and attacks with pain described. There's some kissing and heavy making out described; older teens have sex, but it's not directly narrated, though some physical sensations are described. Strong language is infrequent and moderate ("ass," "damn," and "butt" most often).

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What's the story?

Only three months shy of her 18th birthday, Stella is forced into the federal witness protection program while she waits to testify against a powerful drug dealer accused of murder. She's whisked away from her home, and all contact with her past life is cut off. She finds herself on an old farm in Nebraska with a strict and cantankerous foster mother. Fortunately, she's also now neighbors with the handsome Chet. As she gets to know him and the people of Thunder Basin, she feels worse and worse about having to lie about who she really is. After she stands up to town bully Trigger, he starts digging into Stella's past, threatening her safety just as she's warming up to life in rural Nebraska. DANGEROUS LIES keep piling one on top of another. Can Stella ever be her real self again?

Is it any good?

Stella's a believable hero, and teens will relate to her longing for the independence of turning 18 and struggling with who she really is. But the story lacks emotional punch. Perhaps a hero with so much going on -- the murder trial, the mother’s drug addiction, hiding her identity, falling for a new guy, and all the lying -- may have been too much to chew: No one issue makes a particularly strong impact, and some aspects of the story get short shrift.

The romance especially -- but occasionally the suspense, too -- fall into cliché too often. But teens looking for a light read will enjoy rooting for Stella as she struggles to find a safe haven.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why mysteries and thrillers are so popular. Why do we love reading them so much?

  • Do you know anyone who's addicted to drugs or alcohol? What impact does it have on that person's loved ones?

  • Do you think Stella will ever forgive her mother? Do you think she should? Why, or why not?

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