Whether by design or serendipity, author Brian Barrie hits several high notes with his young adult story, THE L.I.E. Wrapped up in the tale of a young woman’s alienation from her own humanity and later salvation through love and friendship is the subtext of a woman who becomes a successful and famous, albeit misguided, scientist. She could be, in a sense, a role model in the current educational push for women to excel in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.
Barrie’s writing is often lyrical and metaphoric, yet plainly descriptive where it needs to be, as in the several sections where he describes Marta’s invention, the L.I.E. Because of the complexity of the scientific concepts he describes, this book is best read by high school students (the author includes a brief glossary for words that may be unfamiliar). They will also understand the childhood emotional trauma Marta undergoes that leads her to her diabolical invention, and the motivations that drive her, as well as her newfound friend Hannah’s need and desire to help her. Through their partnership, Marta replaces the L.I.E. with a lasting, more wholesome invention which endears her to her community, and through their friendship, she finally gains the family she never had.
The story takes place in Austria, a fact not revealed till the third chapter, although we read about the orphanage Marta grew up in during the first chapter, and the university she attends in the second. Although location is not crucial to the story, its lack could make it hard for readers to immediately ground the story and leave them wondering where in the world Marta is.
THE L.I.E. moves quickly and can be read easily in one evening. Chapters are short and key scenes in the book are illustrated by Bonita Johnson-de Matteis with black and white drawings, some of which are sprinkled with color. In the Acknowledgements, Barrie writes Johnson-de Matteis “steampunked colour, then life, into the characters,” a description well understood when the illustrations are viewed. Together, narrative and pictures make for an enjoyable, upbeat read that instructs and entertains in more ways than one.
Author Brian Barrie has crafted an unusual, layered story for young readers in THE L.I.E. that is sure to intrigue them, both with the intricacies of human relationships and with science.
~Susan Starr for IndieReader