Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is the literary equivalent of an all-out brawl at a debutante ball.
Initially surprising, often hilarious, always entertaining, and with a few minor casualties.
Little White Lies tells the story of 18 year old Sawyer Taft, a girl who’s eccentric single mother has been equal parts secretive and disparaging regarding her past and Sawyer’s extended family. After wondering about her roots her entire life, Sawyer couldn’t resist when her maternal grandmother made her the offer of a lifetime.
The offer was a six-figure contract, a trust to be used for Sawyer’s education, to participate in the illustrious debutante season in her mother’s home town. Sawyer never thought her name would be used in the same sentence as “ball gown,” but the money, combined with the possibility of finding out more about her family and potentially even her father was too tempting to pass up. She knows she was conceived at her mother’s own debutante ball, so there’s no better time for Sawyer to get the answers she craves.
From there, Sawyer enters a world that she never thought she’d belong in, but one that she falls for all the same. The concept of having close friends is just as foreign to her as lipstick and high heels, but she finds an unexpected kinship with her cousin, Lily, her friends, and even her frenemies.
Of course, felonies do have a way of bringing people together! With a title like Little White Lies you knew it wasn’t going to be all debs and squires doing the waltz. The book is also packed with tantalizing mysteries. Barnes has created a beautifully layered story that you’re sure to get wrapped up in.
The book features flash-forward segments to nine months in the future when four girls have been arrested. This acts as the central mystery of Little White Lies, but it is far from the only point of intrigue.
There are plenty of smaller, interweaving mysteries at play as Sawyer makes her way through debutante season. Not the least of which being her quest to discover her father’s identity. Her extended family may be living a more big city lifestyle than Sawyer is used to, but the worlds of the elite are, by very definition, small. When the same few families make up debutante season every year, the list of candidates for Sawyer’s biological father is a small and fascinating one.
If you’re into YA literature, you’ll certainly appreciate Little White Lies, but my favorite thing about the book was how the themes seemed to transcend the YA genre. You could find yourself adding to your family or feeling like you don’t quite belong at any age, so Sawyer’s struggle felt close and familiar, even while reading Little White Lies as an adult.
Mother-daughter relationships can be very complicated beasts, and Little White Lies tackles all kinds of them. Whether it’s detailing the somewhat flipped dynamic (Gilmore Girls style) between Sawyer and her mother, diving into her grandmother’s past with her daughters, or pointing out the minute personality traits that have surely manifested from the other debutante’s relationships with their own mothers, there seems to be something that everyone can relate to.
My other favorite thing about Little White Lies is that it’s downright hilarious. The book had me laughing out loud often. Part of this came from Sawyer’s sarcastic quips and jokes, while some just arose from how familiar the characters and the family units felt. Barnes has done an amazing job creating the people in this world, and I look forward to reading more about them in future Debutantes novels.
And never fear, the cherry on top of the Little White Lies sundae is that there’s just enough romance to keep things interesting.
If you’ve been a fan of Pretty Little Liars, Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl or the American classic, What a Girl Wants starring Amanda Bynes, you’ll definitely find something that you love in the first installation of the Debutantes series.