This Story Is a Lie

Tom Pollock. Soho Teen, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-61695-911-1

No one is as they seem in Pollock’s YA debut. Peter, 17, uses his savantlike math abilities to parse his daily experiences and cope with his severe anxiety. After his mother, a scientist, is nearly killed and his twin sister, Bel, goes missing, Peter is kidnapped by his mother’s colleagues (or maybe her would-be assassins), and math becomes Peter’s lens for deciding whom he can trust. This shape-shifter of a novel explores the tragic cost of family secrets and lies. Its use of math is fresh and fascinating, but Pollock mashes Peter’s mental health issues into a spy/serial-killer/action/revenge/family story, which morphs among genres and doubles back to cover Peter’s personal backstory of being bullied and his close relationship with Bel. Though flashbacks provide insight into Peter’s past, they sap momentum—and because characters are constantly lying and changing allegiances, it’s challenging to keep everyone (and everything) straight. The story offers a fascinating premise, but the unending action and disjointed narration result in a bumpy reading experience. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)
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