Children’s Book Committee – January Pick
The Lie Tree
by Frances Hardinge
(Amulet Books/Abrams, 2016)
After the mysterious death of her father, a Victorian-era naturalist, Faith, 14, hopes that a strange fruit-bearing tree will lead her to his murderers. (13-17, mature content)
Our Young Reviewer says:
The Lie Tree has it all: an enthralling plot, realistic characters, effective prose, and a worthy moral create a book that deserves recognition. No work of young-adult fiction or, in this case, historical fiction, is complete without a plot that compels its audience to keep reading. The Lie Tree certainly has such a plot; there are mystery, action-and- adventure, and coming-of- age elements. No element seems forced, and unlike other young adult fantasy novels that mix genres—such as Brandon Sanderson’s second Mistborn series—The Lie Tree weaves its elements together rather than focusing different sections on different elements. That is, the novel is not merely at times a mystery, at times an action-and-adventure story, and at times a coming-of-age story.
In the midst of the story’s creative plot lies Faith, the adolescent protagonist. Faith comes across as genuine: she reacts to her father’s death in a realistic way, makes mistakes that any adolescent investigating a murderous plot would make, and deals with her emotional younger brother in a way that any older sibling can relate to. At the same time, the supporting characters reveal their depth. For example, Faith’s mother, Myrtle, first appears materialistic, status-oriented, and distant. By the end of the novel, she is passionately doing whatever she can to protect her children. In addition, the prose convey the story well. Hardinge’s writing is detailed but not boring. For example, when describing the island that constitutes the novel’s setting, Hardinge writes, “the islands just visible through the mist looked like teeth, Faith decided. Not fine, clean Dover teeth, but jaded, broken teeth, jutting crookedly amid the wash of the choppy gray sea” (1). Hardinge’s prose conveys the important moral that the means matter as much as the end: Faith learns that she cannot lie even for the noble purpose of avenging her father. Thus, The Lie Tree should be a serious contender for this year’s young adult fiction prizes.– Foster, 17, Anchorage, Alaska