Book Review of Deb Caletti's ONE GREAT LIE - A Stunning Book about Gender and Power
by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Thanks to Partners NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the digital ARC of Deb Caletti’s One Great Lie (Amazon | Bookshop.org) in exchange for an honest review. The book will be released on Tuesday, June 1.
Deb Caletti’s One Great Lie is a stunning YA novel about gender dynamics and issues of power, perfect for consideration in the aftermath of the #metoo movement.
Told in spare, gorgeous prose, the novel focuses on a girl who’s given her dream and then has to reckon with the fact that it’s not what she hoped it would be.
Charlotte is a typical junior at her high school: she and her best friend, Yasmin, have big dreams—Charlotte wants to be a writer, and Yasmin wants to work for NASA—but otherwise, they have the typical concerns of high school students: the next big project that’s due, how to deal with needy boyfriends, navigating family tension. Charlotte’s dad travels a great deal, and her mom’s temper is a constant source of stress, so Charlotte and her little sister Ella support each other and escape when they can.
One day, at the library, Charlotte sees a flyer advertising the possibility of a writer’s workshop with Luca Bruni, her absolute favorite author, in Venice. There’s no way her family has the money to pay for it, but there are scholarships available. On a whim, Charlotte applies. And she wins the scholarship.
She travels to Venice, ecstatic about the start of her career as a writer, about the opportunity to work with other students who are writers, to be in Italy, and—above all—to meet and learn from Luca Bruni.
I love this book so much. I think the questions it asks are important, and they’re asked and answered in a thought-provoking way that acknowledges their complexity. One of the book’s major subplots is that of Charlotte’s ancestor, Isabella Di Angelo, a woman who—it was rumored—wrote some famous poetry that has been credited for centuries to a man. As Charlotte works on her own writing and works with Venetian historians who become intrigued by her story, Caletti asks about the necessity of considering both the art and the artist, of the geniuses who use those around them as pawns in their own greatness. The author weaves in small blurbs about female artists at the beginning of each chapter, which serve to reinforce the themes of her novel.
I requested One Great Lie because of my admiration for Caletti’s book A Heart in a Body in the World (Amazon | Bookshop.org), which dealt in nuanced ways with issues of violence and trauma, and this new novel completely lives up to the brilliance of that previous work. Caletti is doing important work here, and I can’t wait to put this one in the hands of students.
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