If I Lie

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
If I Lie Book Poster Image
Captivating tale of loyalty, sacrifice best for older teens.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

There are discussions of America's various wars (and the number of casualties in each); the traditions and ranks of the Marines; various Washington, D.C. landmarks; and some fundamentals about photography. Kids inspired by the book can look into the Veterans History Project, which really does exist.

Positive Messages

On the plus side, the importance of truly unconditional friendship is championed, as is the idea that those who love you most won't stop loving you because you're gay or called a slut, or whatever else people say about you. Loyalty and sacrifice are heralded. The negative effects of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy are explored, as is the general intolerance and closed-mindedness of a small military-town community. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Quinn is remarkably loyal, even though she has every right to tell Carey's secret and spare herself. Not only does she not tell people the truth about Carey, she also keeps who she was kissing in the photo a secret. Carey asks Quinn to lie for him and keep his homosexuality a secret, even though it ends up costing her everything -- her friendships, her reputation, even the guy she loves. But not everyone in the town is as intolerant as Carey wants to believe. If he'd been brave enough to tell his best friend and his parents, he would have spared Quinn a lot of grief. Elderly vet George encourages Quinn to be her own person and to not let the secrets and lies make her bitter and uninspired.

Violence

A teen is beaten bloody for being gay. A soldier is missing in action and presumed dead.  A soldier is severely injured. Mean girls bully Quinn to the point of pushing, shoving, and tripping her in addition to their verbal abuse. A beloved secondary character dies.

Sex

The main character is considered a slut for cheating on her boyfriend who's deployed abroad (and then goes missing). A teenage couple's first time is briefly described, and a subsequent night together in the woods makes it obvious they are about to make love. Quinn's betrayal is made public when a photo shows her in her bra and cheer skirt wrapped around a shirtless but unrecognizable guy. Quinn recalls catching her mother, breasts exposed, in bed with a man. 

Language

Strong language includes multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "ass," and insults specific to girls like "slut," "whore," "bitch," etc. Quinn is bullied outright for her perceived "affair." She's taunted and pushed, tripped, and otherwise humiliated.

Consumerism

Jeep, Ford, iPod, Nikon, and a few other brands are mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens (and adults) drink, but not a lot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that If I Lie is a coming-of-age tale about keeping someone else's secret against all odds. There are some serious themes in the story -- about staying in the closet, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell homophobia of the military, the effects of infidelity -- and frank discussions of the difference between a safe relationship and a sexual one. A small town's small-mindedness is at the heart of why a gay young man refuses to tell the truth, but so is his inability to give people the benefit of the doubt. The author uses a lot of strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and insults such as "whore," "traitor," and "slut." There's also some persistent bullying, an incident of gay bashing, and the death of a beloved character. The protagonist comes into her own, however, and discovers what she needs and wants out of her relationships.

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What's the story?

Quinn used to be one half of Sweethaven High School's perfect couple, but after her boyfriend Carey joins the Marines and deploys, she does the unthinkable -- she's caught kissing another boy in a provocative photo. Quinn turns into a pariah overnight, but despite losing her social standing, her friendship, even the respect of her father -- a former Marine himself -- she refuses to tell the truth: that she and Carey weren't together anymore when the photo was taken, because Carey had just broken up with her and admitted he's gay. When Carey goes Missing in Action in Afghanistan, Quinn wonders if she will ever be out from the under the weight of his secret and and lies.

Is it any good?

Author Corrine Jackson beautifully conveys the heartache and loneliness of living with a heavy secret, of having one defining moment that changes the rest of your life. Although she could easily save herself from the perpetual grief and humiliation of being branded the small military town's biggest slut, Quinn convincingly reveals why telling the truth would be such an unthinkable betrayal of Carey, whom she loves unconditionally. The fact that his best friend Blake was the (unrecognizable) guy in the photo makes things ever more complicated. He, too, could step forward and defend Quinn, but doing so would devastate Carey's parents even more.

Quinn's ordeal -- everyone at her school seems to hate her, even the girls who used to be her best friends -- is tempered by the one relationship in her life that is uncomplicated and sweet. As a volunteer at the VA hospital, Quinn strikes up a close friendship with George, and elderly vet who encourages and supports Quinn when no one else will. Their conversations are the only moments in If I LIE that aren't tainted by her reputation. There's also a forbidden romance between Quinn and Blake (he doesn't know the truth about Carey) that simmers until it boils over into a declaration of love. But If I Lie is not a romance; this is a story about sacrifice, loyalty, and acceptance. With her compelling, complicated protagonist, Jackson will make readers think hard about truth, love, and duty.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Quinn's theory that everyone has defining moments that change the course of their lives. What was hers? Have you made any defining decisions?

  • Have you read other stories that give you a picture of what it's like for gay teens? Is there less prejudice than there once was where you live? 

  • Do you think Carey was cowardly not to come out of the closet before deploying?

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