Little Red Lies.
Little Red Lies written by Julie Johnston Tundra Books, 2013 978-1-77049-313-1 (he) $21.99 978-1-77049-314-8 (eBook) $11.99 for Grades 6 and up
Fiction / Post-WWII Canada / Family
Sibling relationships in YA literature often depend upon cliches such as jealousy, hero worship and feuds. Award-winning author Julie Johnston's refreshing take on the older brother / sister dynamic is one of the many questions she explores in this post-Second World War novel, Little Red Lies.
Set in small town Ontario, theatre-obsessed Rachel cannot wait for her older brother, Jamie, to return from the front so things can get back to normal. But Jamie returns withdrawn and sullen, questioning a mysterious bombing that killed one of his comrades and mourning the death of his best friend from childhood. Yet, it is Rachel he chooses to confide in through his stack of candid "Letters not sent," because she has the ability to bring out the truth in him.
Although there is so much melodrama with a heavy cast of characters and situations that make one wonder sometimes where the novel is going, it is in this hullabaloo that the novel finds its heart. Her relegation to the role of child and her penchant for drama makes Rachel the observer and collaborator; even her tendency to overact puts her on the sidelines for the school play. This also means that she's always in cahoots with her brother, helping him navigate the needs of their overbearing mother and disengaged father, proving that they are more grown up than some of the adults in their lives and moving beyond the drama to have an authentic relationship.
Melanie Fishbane is a freelance writer in Toronto and a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program.