All the best liars by Amelia Kahaney

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Three final-year high school students Sydney, Rain and Brianna have grown up together on the outskirts of a California desert town as best friends. However as their parents’ circumstances change and two of them are able to move to the more expensive suburbs, their allegiances are tested, fatally.

Brie moves first when her father’s business starts to improve, and she is quick to shake off her childhood friends, leaving Syd and Rain feeling abandoned. She has her sights set on attending a prestigious college and is studying hard, to prove to her father that he should fund this.

When Rain’s mother wins the lottery, they also move ‘down the hill’, and now that she has money, Rain is readmitted into Brie’s group, leaving Syd bereft.

This not uncommon story of friends growing apart, is given depth as Kahaney reveals the motivations for their behaviour; the desire to escape poverty, to avoid an abusive parent, to grieve a lost one, the pressures to appear perfect, have money and possessions, and make friends and influence others.

The novel is told in 13 parts, each from one of the girl’s perspective, over a period of a year. The pivotal event is the house fire in which Brie dies and Syd becomes a suspect, and each chapter adds to our knowledge and understanding of how and why the fire occurred, as layers of deceit and desire are slowly revealed by each girl’s memories and actions. From several viewpoints we see that privilege is not always what it seems, and friendships can be expendable.

In places this is not a pleasant read, as each girl struggles with their sense of self-worth and the very worst of ‘mean girl’ behaviour, regularly using drugs and alcohol to cope. However, it is a skilfully written story that addresses many of the issues facing teen-aged girls, including making and keeping friendships as circumstances and priorities change, and self-preservation kicks in. A gripping read that delivers right up to the final plot twist and raises many contemporary discussion points.

Themes: Friendship, Families, Relationships.

Margaret Crohn