Caroline Bock, debut author of LIE last Friday night at a reading she did with the divine Tara Altebrando (promoting her awesome new book, Dreamland Social Club that takes place on Coney Island) at The Voracious Reader.
LIE explores a hate crime and racism - really tough subjects - and I was intrigued.
Caroline is a dynamic personality - she had us riveted with her reading. First she explained that she had been devastated and outraged when a Hispanic immigrant had been murdered by a gang of affluent white high school teens near her home on Long Island. How could this happen in this day and age and in her neighborhood? Thus the story was born.
The novel's first page has this quote from The New York Times: "The attacks were such an established pastime that the youths, who have pleaded not guilty, had a casual and derogatory term for it, "beaner hopping."
LIE is told through intertwining narratives, both adult and teen. We never hear from the force behind the "beaner hopping", Jimmy, but we learn about him through the three main characters: Skylar - his girlfriend, Sean - his best friend, and Lisa Marie - Skylar's best friend.
The book starts with Skylar, lying about what she knows about the attack. Everybody knows, nobody's talking is the mantra throughout the book. The character that made my skin crawl the most was Lisa Marie, who is so invested in protecting Jimmy that it is more important than seeing how torn up Skylar and Sean are about not telling the truth. She and the absent Jimmy, control their narratives throughout the book. Caroline expertly shows us how devastating this is, without being preachy.
This would be a great book to discuss with high school students and book groups of all ages, about the effects of bullying, a charismatic leader who compels others to do the wrong thing by making it seem right, (Hitler anyone?) the importance of cultural sensitivity and out and out racism.
When I moved to the exurbs from New York City, I wanted to make sure that my kids would go to a school that reflected the world, and we have that in the Bedford Hills School district. Reading Caroline's book strengthened my own point of view in the importance of tolerance and some new immigration laws that don't make it so impossible for immigrants to become part of the ever dwindling middle class. A lot needs to happen in this country in that arena.
We are all from somewhere else. The family tree on my mother's side goes way way back, with ancestors coming from France and Sicily, and my dad is British.
What is your ancestry?
Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.
"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.