Thank you so much to The Book Terminal for organizing this blog tour and providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Poppy, Lily, and Belladonna would do anything to protect their best friend, Raven. So when they discovered he was suffering abuse at the hands of his stepmother, they came up with a lethal plan: petals of poppy, belladonna, and lily in her evening tea so she’d never be able to hurt Raven again. But someone got cold feet, the plot faded to a secret of the past, and the group fell apart.
Three years later, on the eve of Raven’s seventeenth birthday, his stepmother turns up dead. But it’s only belladonna found in her tea, and it’s only Belladonna who’s carted off to jail. Desperate for help, Belle reaches out to her estranged friends to prove her innocence. They answer the call, but no one is prepared for what comes next.
Now, everyone has something to lose and something equally dangerous to hide. And when the tangled web of secrets and betrayal is finally unwound, what lies at its heart will change the group forever.*
*Summary copied from Goodreads
Title: Lies Like Poison
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing)
Genre: YA, Mystery/Thriller, LGBTQ+
Targeted Age Range: Young Adult
Representation: Transgender main character, black main character, bi/lesbian main characters, black side character, gay side characters
Trigger Warnings: Parental death (on-page), forced starvation, mentions of drug use, homophobia, mentions of abuse (verbal and physical), implications of rape, mentions of suicide, kidnapping
This was one of the most interesting YA thrillers I have read in a while! The story and characters instantly drew me in and it was hard to put it down! The book is sorted into three different sections, each focusing on three of our main characters. Each section reveals a bit more of the truth and the pieces slowly start to come together. There were so many twists and turns and my brain was moving a million miles a minute trying to figure them all out. I’m very proud to say that there were many of the twists that I figured out – but I definitely second-guessed myself continually until the truth was revealed. I spent a lot of time convincing myself that I was on the right track and then saying, “No, that’s crazy that can’t be it!” followed up a few chapters later with me saying, “I was right after all!” which honestly is one of my favorite things about reading mystery/thrillers. I love being so enthralled in the story that I can’t stop myself from trying to figure out the truth, which usually leads to me coming up with lots of crazy theories that I hope are correct and sometimes are. It makes me feel like I’m part of the story, and I definitely felt like I was part of this story.
Part of what I think makes a good mystery are unreliable characters. Lies Like Poison is filled to the brim with unreliable characters. Belle, Jack, and Lily all have a motive to kill Evelyn, and each time one of them explained their innocence, something else was revealed that would make them look guilty again. It’s not until the third section of the book that you really find out the truth about what all three of them were doing the night of the murder and I loved that.
While of course the mystery is a huge part of the story, Lies Like Poison is so much more than a murder mystery. The characters are so well written, and incredibly layered. In the beginning, you think you’ve got the characters all figured out but as the story goes on you see the different facets of them. I grew to really love these characters. There is not one boring character in this book and I loved that. My favorite character was without a doubt, Jack. At the beginning of the book, we find out that Poppy is now going by Jack (short for Jacqueline; their middle name). Jack suffered so much throughout his life (my overwhelming thought through the entire book was “someone please just give Jack a hug right now”) and it was so beautiful to see him be able to finally reveal who he truly is and to be accepted immediately by the people that he loved the most.
I was so invested in Belle, Jack, Lily, and Raven’s stories. Though I will say sometimes I definitely forgot that they were supposed to be teenagers because they all had so much to deal with, but I think that was kind of the point. These kids have been thrust into these situations that are so much bigger than they are and they’ve all had to grow up really quickly because of it, their lives have spiraled out of control and they, unfortunately, have no one else that they can lean on but each other. The found family aspect of this story is also something that I really loved and made me happy because all I wanted (besides figuring out who the murderer was) was for these kids to have some sense of happiness and comfort, which they luckily found again in each other.
Something in particular about the writing that I loved was all the use of fairytale imagery and how it seamlessly wove into the plot and characters. Early on, there is a flashback scene where Belle, Jack, and Raven are playing like they’re in a fairytale. Belle is the witch, Jack is the knight and Raven is the prince that needs to be rescued – these things mirror who they are and how they are perceived in real life. They are continually referred to as these character tropes throughout the book which I found incredibly interesting. I also liked the twist on the “damsel in distress” trope where it was Raven, a male character, as the one who needed the rescuing.
I loved that the cast of characters was so diverse. I found the representation in Lies Like Poison to be authentic, at no point did I feel like the author was adding these characters so that they could be checked off of a ‘diversity list’ which was much appreciated. Though it is important to point out that I do not personally identify as bi, lesbian or transgender and I am not Black – I would suggest checking out some ownvoices reviews, and if I find any I will edit this post with them.
Overall I found Lies Like Poison to be an absolutely captivating murder mystery that I will find myself reading again and recommending it to fellow mystery/thriller readers! A solid 4.5 star read.
About the Author
Chelsea Pitcher is a karaoke-singing, ocean-worshipping Oregonian with a penchant for twisty mysteries. She is the author of THE S-WORD, THE LAST CHANGELING & THE LAST FAERIE QUEEN.