Lie begins with a quote pulled from The New York Times front-page story after the murder of a Hispanic immigrant on Long Island. It says, “The attacks were such an established pastime that the youths, who have pleaded not guilty, had a casual and derogatory term for it: ‘beaner hopping.’”
In Lie, Caroline Bock explores why youths of an American town would be involved in “beaner hopping.” Is it the community they live in? Or how their parents raised them? Or the influence of friends and peers? In Lie, much of the book focuses on the unusually powerful influence of Jimmy, a popular, athletic high school student eager to join the military—and the leader of a beaner hopping group.
The story alternates through a number of narrators, most notably Skylar, Jimmy’s girlfriend, and Sean, Jimmy’s best friend. Jimmy himself never has a section to narrate his point of view. But he doesn’t need one. His voice permeates everyone’s point of view: he’s “rescuing” Skylar from grief, promising Sean the greatest senior year ever, giving Lisa Marie purpose, impressing the school, pushing the idea that the status quo needs defending. Jimmy shapes the youth group’s mantra: Everybody knows. Nobody’s talking. Jimmy seems to be embodiment of radical American ideals.
Because of Jimmy’s influence, we see Skylar and Sean, witnesses to the attack and murder of a young El Salvadorian man, struggle to find their own voices. With Jimmy being held in jail, Skylar and Sean must decide for themselves what to do, and what right and wrong mean. Their struggles are the book’s greatest strength, especially when they lead to another community tragedy. Bock’s ability to make us feel so much (whether it’s hate, sympathy, or annoyance) for a character is another strength.
Though I enjoyed the book, I did feel a little underwhelmed during the slow sections. Skylar’s point of view, for example, tempted me to skim at times. Though I understand Jimmy’s amazing influence over her, there were moments that I wanted to yell at her for being so weak. I also hoped to see a more human side of Jimmy and his family.
Lie by Caroline Bock is a powerful book that explores hate crimes, the reasons behind them, and how hatred affects our lives. Bock creates memorable characters whose stories and thoughts evoke a variety of emotions in a solid four-star read.
Samantha Bagood is a freelance writer and designer and a student at Appalachian State University. She is currently writing her first novel.