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Reviewed by:
  • The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer
Mayhew, Julie The Big Lie. Candlewick,
2017 [352p] ISBN 978-0-7636-9125-7 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9-12

The Germans won World War II in Mayhew's alternate world, and Jess has spent her seventeen years growing up in Nazi-controlled Britain, educated and firmly believing in the regime's ruling principles—the value of pure Aryan blood, the distinctly assigned gender roles, and its superiority to the other countries. Her best friend [End Page 166] Clementine has always had a rebellious streak, though, obtaining contraband from places the regime has forbidden contact with and constantly questioning the Nazis' rules. When Clementine stages a protest, literally going up in flames at a concert, Jess is taken into custody to be questioned. The effective nonlinear timeline, the tonal switches in narration, and the tight, complicated bond between the two girls certainly carry echoes of Code Name Verity (BCCB 6/12), but this perspective is that of the non-hero, a girl who is so deeply steeped in the world created by the regime that she doesn't even think to question its oppressive nature until it is too late. Beyond its alternate history premise, the book deftly examines the ways in which gender roles and sexuality play out under a society that strictly delineates them, as Jess deals with her romantic feelings for Clementine and has clandestine sex with another girl from school. There are surprises for both Jess and the reader in the ending, making this a timely piece for teens to consider what pacifism and/or protest looks like and the costs each entail; an author's note explains her inspiration. KQG



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pp. 166-167
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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