By Mary Elizabeth Summer
Available now from Delacorte (Penguin Random House)
TRUST ME, I'M LYING is the tale of a teenage grifter, a type of con artist that sells people things that don't exist. When her father disappears, Julep Dupree isn't worried. That is, until her apartment is ransacked, leaving her with little but a cryptic note and a gun. Finding out that her father somehow got involved with the mob is the cherry on top of the something-is-wrong sundae.
There is a heightened reality to the novel. Julep is running several large-scale scams at her school, almost everyone she comes in contact with is somehow involved, and there is an incredibly elaborate scavenger hunt that took a lot of work to set up in likely very little time. It's the sort of crazy plot that is fun to read but falls apart after you start to think about it. You've just got to suspend your disbelief and go with it. It's also slightly hurt in story by the inclusion of a sex slavery ring. TRUST ME, I'M LYING is too much of a breezy read about a teen criminal in over her head to really incorporate such a heavy issue in a meaningful way. The emotional payoff felt unearned.
Julep has an appealing, witty voice and conflicting goals. On one hand, she wants to leave the life and go to Yale. On the other hand, she's desperate to know what happened to her father and rescue him if she can. If that means breaking the law and getting into trouble, so be it. She also has two love interests, as is de rigueur. One is Sam, her best friend and partner in crime, who needs to gather up the courage to tell her. Despite being talented at reading people, Julep misses the obvious. The other is Tyler, the cool kid who is suddenly interested in helping her out and following along. Despite being talented at reading people, Julep misses the obvious. (In this case, it bears repeating.)
I found both relationships vaguely tedious. They were nothing new, and standard romantic drama is boring compared to trying to outwit the mob. The romance, however, did have the stronger emotional payoff.
TRUST ME, I'M LYING is Mary Elizabeth Summer's debut novel. It certainly shows promise for future endeavors. Summer could take a page from her heroine and do things a little less by the book next time.