- If I Lie
Quinn lives in a small North Carolina where just about everyone is connected to the Marine Corps. She was the supposed girlfriend of Carey, who graduated early to enlist and is now a hometown hero serving in Afghanistan. Ever since a compromising photograph revealed her commitment to Carey to be a sham, though, she is the town's pariah, because to cheat on a soldier on deployment is an unforgivable sin—and one that her mother committed before her. Her lieutenant-colonel father sentences her to work at the VA hospital, a move that proves her salvation as she bonds with a dying Vietnam War veteran, George, who alone believes in her even without her telling him the truth—that Carey is gay, and he pleaded with Quinn to keep his secret. Quinn's life becomes even more complicated when her mother returns to town, and she has to sort out her feelings for the mother who left and the father who stayed, neither of whom know how to show their love for their daughter. Carey became Quinn's lifeline during the difficult period of her parents' breakup, earning a depth of loyalty then that now threatens to destroy her; her anger is both righteous and palpable as she alone bears the consequences of everyone's lies and secrets. This is an intense and heartbreaking bit of quality realism, putting the stress of life in a small military town during wartime on full display as a pertinent backdrop for more personal drama. Characters that could easily become stereotypes are instead drawn with sensitive attention to idiosyncratic detail that displays the vulnerability of the gruff warrior, the heartlessness of the well-meaning friend. Quinn's outer forbearance set against her inner rage makes her a compelling character indeed as she fights her own wars and learns that while some battles are winnable, others are ongoing.