Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: Once Upon A Lie

Once Upon A LieOnce Upon A Lie by Michael R. French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alex, a teen from a wealthy family in the Toluca Lake neighborhood of L.A. meets Jaleel, a poor African American boy, on the other side of Cahuenga Boulevard and is immediately fascinated by his independence, optimism and impeccable taste in literature. What she doesn't know is he is also wanted for a double murder in Peartree, TX (which he didn't commit.) Alex and Jaleel become fascinated with each other's worlds, but danger lurks beneath the surface for both of them. For Jaleel, it's being on the run from the law for a crime he didn't commit. For Alex, it's a tangled web of dark family secrets that grow darker.

Once Upon a Lie has a lot of Dickensian charm for me. The characters are well developed, and definitely the greatest strength of this novel. It also is filled with chance meetings between people who are fated to meet again, and again. (The parallels go beyond that, but I would be spoiling the story for you if I shared.) French also makes some insightful observations about the limits of personal freedom in our supposedly free society (the story is set in the 1980s, but much of this is just as relevant now.) He touches on racial tensions and class as well, but the two often become conflated in this story since the main characters are from such different backgrounds.

Unlike Dickens, French has a much more concise style, and for the most part, this was clean work. I did spot a few anachronisms and minor usage errors, but since I was reading a digital galley, it's possible these have since been corrected.

Michael R. French has somehow never made it onto my radar, but once I started reading Once Upon a Lie, I found out that he has authored 20 books!

**This review is based on a digital galley that was provided for free by the publisher for review purposes. No form of compensation was provided for this review.**

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