The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

A dark thriller with a warm heart: My review of ‘Lies Like Love’ by Louisa Reid


Lies Like Love. Louisa Reid. Penguin. July 2014.

‘There were a few problems . . . bullying . . . a fire . . .’

‘I think she’s verging on psychosis . . . now she’s lashing out.’

‘She’s got no one else to fight for her.’

Sixteen year-old Audrey just wants to be normal.
She’s trying to fit in.
But what happens when the person closest to you suffocates you with their love?
What happens then?

When I picked up Lies Like Love at YA Shot back in October (where I was lucky enough to get my copy signed by Louisa Reid herself!), I was instantly hooked by the creepy-sounding blurb, and knew I had to read this novel. I wasn’t disappointed! As well as being my first read of 2016, this book also receives my first 5-star review of 2016 – I loved it so much!

The story follows 16 year old Audrey, who’s just moved to a new house in a new town with her mum Lorraine, and little brother Pete. Their new home is called the Grange, an almost deserted block of flats surrounded by a dingy looking moat, which gives off something of a sinister vibe from the moment they arrive.

This is a fresh start for the family, though it’s clear Audrey’s feeling something closer to dread than excitement as they step over the threshold into their new life. There’s a feeling of uneasiness behind every word in the opening chapter, and this feeling intensifies throughout the novel. I was worried for Audrey’s safety from the very beginning…

Despite being fairly isolated at The Grange, the family’s nearest neighbours drop by to introduce themselves soon after they move in: Leo (a boy not much older than Audrey) and his aunt Sue, who live on the farm just up the road.

There’s a spark between Audrey and Leo from their first meeting, but their relationship gets off to an awkward and stilted start. They’re both introverted people, struggling with inner demons, and as such, there’s lots unspoken between them. Because how can you tell someone you’ve just met that you had a breakdown? (Leo) Or that you’ve suffered from depression for most of your life? (Audrey)

All Audrey wants is to start living a normal life, but time and again her depression holds her back. In fact, her mental health issues are so severe, that she repeatedly has total blackouts where she self-harms, hallucinating a terrifying presence she names ‘The Thing’ is holding her down and hurting her, when really she’s the one hurting herself. Audrey’s been on medication for as long as she can remember, but the pills never succeed in getting rid of ‘The Thing’ completely. But who can she confide in? They’ll only think she’s crazy… Or crazier than they already do.

Leo and Audrey are both lonely, and making a new friend is something they’re both in desperate need of. If only it were that easy. As Audrey and Leo tentatively start getting to know each other, it becomes clear that somebody wants to put an end to their shyly blossoming relationship before it’s even begun: Lorraine.

To say Audrey’s mum is overprotective is an understatement, and although wanting to keep her daughter from harm is understandable, her obsession with preventing Audrey from leading the normal life she craves is far from healthy. As Audrey is so unwell, her mum is convinced she can’t even manage everyday things like going to school (she repeatedly keeps her home where she can look after her)… she certainly can’t handle something as emotionally charged as having a boyfriend! As a nurse by profession, as a mother, Lorraine knows what’s best for her daughter… Doesn’t she?

I found Lorraine a strange and intense character from the beginning, but as the story progressed, I found her behaviour increasingly sinister, and grew to hate her more with every page. She was a loathesome, suffocating presence within the story: she interferes with every aspect of Audrey’s life, from doing everything in her power to dissuade Leo from starting a relationship with her daughter, to forcefully speaking for Audrey in every doctor’s appointment and never giving her the chance to put how she feels into her own words… Coupled with this, she seems to be around every corner, and whenever she’s in the room, she’s continuously fussing over Audrey, or asking Audrey to fuss over her (brush her hair, help her in the bath, etc.)

Whilst Lorraine smothers Audrey with her ‘caring’, she simultaneously seems to forget she ever gave birth to another child, and Pete is constantly neglected in favour of Audrey. Audrey herself acts more like a mum to Pete than Lorraine does. The selfless way she cares for Pete, despite the darkness of her own she’s battling daily, made me really admire her character. Audrey’s the one making his meals, picking him up from school, and tucking him in at night. But when her illness takes a turn for the worse, who will be there to look after Pete?

What I love about psychological thrillers is their ability to weave the day-to-day interactions between ordinary people into a gradually darkening narrative as heart-racingly exciting and terrifying as a fast-paced action sequence, and this book is a prime example of exactly that skill. I can’t say much more without wandering into spoiler territory, but what I will say is that I never expected this novel to become so dark, but the way the story unravels is truly chilling, and I was holding my breath throughout the second half of the book.

Despite the darkness, this book had a warm heart – the relationship between Audrey and Leo was touching, sincere and sweet, and what I enjoyed most about it was that it didn’t happen instantly like in so many YA novels, but gradually, which made it all the more genuine and believable. The other spot of sunshine in this story was Audrey’s relationship with her brother Pete, and the cute, childish games they played together. The contrast of so much innocence, against the dark backdrop of Audrey’s fear, is what made this story so compelling. I was rooting for these characters so much, and desperately longing for a happy ending…

Read this book – you won’t regret it! It’s heartbreaking, but heartwarming, beautifully written, with a truly twisted twist (as only the best psychological thrillers can deliver!) I highly recommend Lies Like Love, and I can’t wait to read more from Louisa Reid.