Series: Ten Tiny Breaths #2
Published by Atria on June 11th 2013
Livie has always been the stable one of the two Cleary sisters, handling her parents' tragic death and Kacey's self-destructive phase with strength and maturity. But underneath that exterior is a little girl hanging onto the last words her father ever spoke to her. "Make me proud," he had said. She promised she would...and she's done her best over the past seven years with every choice, with every word, with every action.
Livie walks into Princeton with a solid plan, and she's dead set on delivering on it: Rock her classes, set herself up for medical school, and meet a good, respectable guy that she's going to someday marry. What isn’t part of her plan are Jell-O shots, a lovable, party animal roommate she can't say 'no' to, and Ashton, the gorgeous captain of the men's rowing team. Definitely him. He's an arrogant ass who makes Livie's usually non-existent temper flare and everything she doesn't want in a guy. Worse, he's best friends and roommates with Connor, who happens to fits Livie's criteria perfectly. So why does she keep thinking about Ashton?
As Livie finds herself facing mediocre grades, career aspirations she no longer thinks she can handle, and feelings for Ashton that she shouldn't have, she’s forced to let go of her last promise to her father and, with it, the only identity that she knows.
One Tiny Lie is a lesson. A lesson in how building up your hopes and anticipating a book too much can be a crushing disappointment. This is the third time this year that’s happened to me and the book hangovers are seriously not worth it.
One Tiny Lie is NOT a bad book, it’s probably a book most people would enjoy and if it wasn’t for the fact that I had experienced the searing brilliance, emotion and honesty that Tucker poured into the unbelievable Ten Tiny Breaths (Review here) then I most probably would have rated this four or more stars. Instead I feel low, like a kid who’s just found out the truth about Santa Claus.
One Tiny Lie revisits the Cleary sisters whom we met in Ten Tiny Breaths. TTB focused on Kacey, the older of the two, suffering from PTSD after her parents and friends were killed in a drunk driving accident that she managed to survive barely. It chronicles her spiral to rock bottom and her recovery and was unbelievable. It truly opened my eyes to the levels of grief and recovery that people must tackle in order to heal. In One Tiny Lie, it is Livvie’s turn. I loved Livvie in TTB, she was sweet, funny, mature and held everything together in a way that was admirable and staggering to witness. Three years after her sister has healed, Livvie is on her way to college. Holding on to the memories and hopes that her parents had for her (“Make me proud” was her father’s mantra) Livvie feels that to deviate from their plan would disappoint them. Kacey and her therapist Dr. Stayner are worried about the impossible standards that Livvie holds herself to and in an effort to get her to break free and realise that life doesn’t and shouldn’t always be mapped out, they team up to put Livvie through some unconventional therapeutic techniques that help Livvie to relax a little and bring about some pretty hilarious results to boot.
I enjoyed the unconventional nature of the therapy at first…however towards the end it got too much. Because of that I need to break the book into two parts.
The first 57% (yes I am that accurate lol) was mediocre but fun, it was interesting, readable and easy but it always felt more like “the subplot” to another novel than the actual plot.
Maybe it’s NA fatigue but virginal good girl being told that in order to live her life needs to drink copious amounts of alcohol, miss classes, cheat on her boyfriend and make lame attempts to justify it because the “damaged bad boy” truly “gets her” is just …well pathetic. It’s a justification that destroys lives, friendships, reputations and it’s not entertaining. It’s compelling because it’s fiction but when a character who you loved and respected turns into…well a bit of a bitch I can’t help but feel let down. Livvie is caught in a love triangle…that never really gets off the ground because Connor who is the “good guy”, sweet, respectable etc is reduced to a caricature and never is given a chance to grow and develop. Tucker keeps him in the background as the figure Livvie can place blame on when her guilt gets too much. Ashton, the quintessential NA boy, tempts Livvie to be bad, manhandles her, seduces her and awakens her sexuality but always pulls away saying he’s not good enough and she deserves better and has anyone else heard this one before?
I don’t like justifications for adultery, if you want to be with someone, be with them but don’t put your guilt on the person who doesn’t deserve it. The whole “we were overcome with passion and couldn’t help ourselves” only works the first time (barely) and after that you’re deliberately playing around with peoples feelings and it’s not something to be admired. When Livvie finally comes to her senses and admits her mistakes I cheered and thanked the literary Gods but by then the book and me were on the outs.
It just felt lacking.
I’ve read so many books with the above plot and I’ve let myself be swept away and squeeed and devoured the book with heart pounding intensity and I truly thought this would be the same. That I would root for Livvie despite her mistakes and want her to be with the bad boy with the dark past and ache for them to heal each other and connect with each other’s souls but there was something missing. The heat, passion, chemistry was just not there. Ashton was sweet at times and I did like him but there was a distasteful aspect to his personality that didn’t ring true with his past or his behaviour and made it difficult to truly root for him.
Livvie’s discovery into who she was/is and who her parents wanted her to be was captivating but at times she came across as a shadow of the girl in TTB, not because of her situation but as if she was written that way, that her voice didn’t truly come through as authentic.
Despite the above issues this book would DEFINITELY have gotten minimum 3.5-4 stars if it wasn’t for the utter melodrama that unfolded in the final third of the book. It got to the stage where I actually asked my uncle who is a consultant psychiatrist if the behaviour and actions of Dr. Stayner in the final chapters was inappropriate and he couldn’t get over it. I am all for unconventional therapy but there is a line and a Doctor interfering in the lives of his patients friends without their permission was just wholly uncomfortable and unbelievable and I couldn’t reconcile with that plot line. It was just too damn much.
The desperate fangirl in me can’t help but stress that the book overall was good, there were many parts that I really enjoyed but unfortunately there were just too many issues to overlook and as much as I really, really, really wanted to love this book and shout from the rooftops like I did with Ten Tiny Breaths, it fell short and the disappointment is crushing.
I admit that my review comes from a very personal place, I have a lot of experience with many of the issues raised in One Tiny Lie which I think has really shaped my view of the book and made it difficult to step back and take it at face value because the scenarios felt mishandled and sloppy but I truly hope that people enjoy it and I do look forward to reading more of Ms Tucker’s work with anticipation and hope I connect with it better.
But for now I’m going to go sit in a corner and quietly sob…