The Lying Game by Sara Shepard (HarperCollins - HarperTeen) has a really intriguing cover, and I'm going to nominate it for "best hint at the contents" that I've seen in a long time. There are two girls, but they're one and the same girl; it's a girl who can show you one face or its opposite.
The book starts with a Kurt Vonnegut quote: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. That's a hint too: there are big and little lies threaded through the entire book, but pretending to be someone other than yourself is the most important of the lies.
Sutton wakes up in a bathtub, far away from her home in Arizona, and no one notices. Not even Emma, the girl who comes into the bathroom next, the girl who looks exactly like Sutton. Sutton knows everything about Emma, from the years in foster care to Emma's wish for a loving family, but Emma doesn't know anything about Sutton--not even that she's shadowing her. Not at first. But soon, though they can't communicate with one another, they're sharing the same space.
Specifically, they're sharing Sutton's space. When Emma sees a snuff video with a girl who looks just like she does, she starts investigating, and finds a girl on Facebook who could be her long-lost sister. There's nothing left for her as she ages out of foster care, and so she goes, at Sutton's invitation, to Arizona. The problem is that she's immediately mistaken for Sutton, and finds herself living Sutton's life--and Sutton is not quite the same girl Emma is, for all the outward similarities. Sutton's one of those girls, who pulls humiliating pranks on classmates, whose friends are more like frenemies. The longer Emma is Sutton, the more she thinks that someone might have killed Sutton as revenge for Sutton's macabre sense of humor and power. The more she wonders if she's next to die.
The Lying Game feels like a throwback in a good way. If you read Christopher Pike, R. L. Stine, or Lois Duncan (remember Down a Dark Hall?) years ago, you'll appreciate the thriller aspects here. I was also fascinated--okay, fascinated--by the point of view switching. I need to go back and look again to confirm my impressions, but there are relatively fast switches between Sutton and Emma in first person, and then, when they're talking about the other person, there's either third person--or the equivalent of third--in between. I wasn't confused 99% of the time, and the other 1%, I thought that the ambiguity worked very well.
My one complaint isn't really directed at the book. As I headed into the ending, I noticed that there were fifty, then thirty, pages remaining, and that it was a bit on the short side of YA to start with. I hadn't figured out whodunnit yet, and I wondered how Shepard was going to wrap it all up...and then I came to the end and caught on that this is a series. I know the economic reasons why, but every book I pick up seems to be the first in a series, and I long for a complete (as far as stories are ever complete) story in one installment.
*Review copy provided by HarperCollins. Thanks!