The Lying Game

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
The Lying Game Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Suspenseful series starter full of pranks and mean girls.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 29 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Well, this is reading... and, as the start of a new series, teens may want to continue to the next installment.

Positive Messages

This book doesn't exactly glorify pranks -- Emma is sort of horrified by how Sutton and her friends act, as is nice Ethan -- but readers will still see rich, popular girls backstabbing each other and doing many mean things to one another.  

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mostly, this book is full of characters that readers of clique lit books will recognize -- snotty, label-obsessed, back-stabbing girls. Emma is a bit out of that, being a smart girl with a hard life -- and she is trying to figure out what happened to her twin.


Sutton is murdered and narrates the book as a ghost. The girls play mean pranks on one another -- and Sutton's twin Emma fears for her own life.


Sutton's boyfriend plans a romantic first time for the two of them -- not realizing he is actually making the moves on her twin. Emma's foster brother tries to see her naked.


A sprinkling of "s--t," "crap," bitch," etc.


Lots of label dropping as Emma adjusts to Sutton's life of luxury: Tiffany, Mark Jacobs, iPhones, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Emma's foster brother smokes pot. Emma plays a drinking game with Sutton's friends. Thayer's seduction includes glasses of champagne.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is the first book in a series written by the same author who penned Pretty Little Liars. Like that series, this one features a group of rich, popular, label-loving Mean Girls who backstab each other and pull pranks. At the heart of this book is the murder of a teen girl -- and her twin is in constant danger as she tries to solve the crime, suspecting Sutton's sister, friends, and more. Emma is a bit of an outsider, and is shocked by the girl's behavior, providing readers with a more relatable narrator than many of these kinds of books -- but the pranks are intense enough that the author includes a plea to her readers to "please don't try any of these Lying Game pranks at home."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byGaga Fan September 6, 2011

Watch to show for your gulity pleasure fix, vs. reading the book!

The book is much racier than the TV series, which is toned down almost to lameness. *Caution* teens who think the series will mirror the book will be disappoint... Continue reading
Adult Written byhockeymom87 August 6, 2011

Parents can be WAY too over protective

I allowed my 13 year old to read this after I read it. It shows what teens are like in this world today. I think some parents are being wayyyyyyyy too over prot... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPrap.s October 18, 2018
Hey! I recently read this series and it's soo good! Parents who are thinking these are not suitable for their children until they are 15 or 18 or something... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPrap.s October 18, 2018
Hey! I recently read this series and it's soo good! Parents who are thinking these are not suitable for their children until they are 15 or 18 or something... Continue reading

What's the story?

A mistreated foster girl learns that she has an identical twin living a privileged, popular girl's life not far away -- then discovers Sutton's been secretly murdered. Assuming her identity, Emma is soon living a life of luxury, but is being threatened by her twin's killer. Soon, she starts suspecting everyone in her twin's prank-playing clique, including Sutton's own younger sister. The book is narrated by the dead Sutton, who admits she is the \"trickiest member of The Lying Game by far.\"

Is it any good?

The suspense here is really pretty good; readers will suspect everyone that Emma does as she goes from one precarious situation to another. Not much new ground is covered here -- and nothing is tied up at the end -- but readers who like these kinds of books will find this to be fluffy fun.

Readers familiar with the genre should know what to expect: The girls in Sutton's clique shop, throw elaborate parties, steal boyfriends, and plan mean pranks. Emma is an outsider -- she shops at second-hand stores! -- and is shocked by the girls' pranks, calling the clique's Lying Game "scary and intense and way too dangerous." This makes her a bit more relatable narrator than many of these kinds of books. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of the clique lit series. Why do you think books like the Gossip Girl books and The Clique series are so popular with readers? Are these just guilty pleasures -- or do readers learn something from these books?

  •  Emma learns about her long-lost twin after seeing a video of her posted on YouTube. Parents may want to check out Common Sense Media's YouTube advice for parents, and take this opportunity to discuss their own house rules with kids. 

Book details

  • Author: Sara Shepard
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • Publication date: December 7, 2010
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14
  • Number of pages: 320
  • Last updated: June 20, 2019

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