Little Red Lies
Rachel’s beloved brother is coming home from World War II, and she’s thrilled. But the young man who returns is a different person than he once was. Add in a too-handsome young temporary homeroom teacher, her parents going off the deep end, and a disastrous debut on stage, and 13-year-old Rachel’s life is upside down. Her story is punctuated with sections of “letters not sent” from her brother, telling her what happened to him at war. It’s not the heroic epic Rachel keeps pestering him to tell her.
The best thing about Little Red Lies is Rachel’s believable wholeness. She’s neither boy-crazy nor completely consumed by her dreams to write or act. She’s both intelligent and also naïve and awkward. She’s sometimes saved from her own folly by luck, but it’s luck brought about by her choices that arise from her own basic goodness.
Johnston’s writing is smooth and competent; dialogue and pacing move the story along without trip-ups. Johnston doesn’t include a lot of period details that would have distinguished the setting from, say, a brother coming home from the war in Vietnam. That felt fine; the story is the thing here. Recommended for young adults.