The Truth and Lies of Ella Black was no doubt my most anticipated read for winter of 2019. I absolutely LOVED The One Memory of Flora Banks (and I even made Flora Banks inspired cupcakes, which you can check out here!), so I was so excited to read the author’s new book. The cover is gorgeous, it sounded just as thrilling and mysterious as Flora Banks, and I knew I was going to fall head over heels in love with it after reading the first few pages.
Almost the second the ARC of this book arrived in my mailbox (and a HUGE thank you to Penguin Teen!), I sat down with this book and devoured the entire thing in one day. I started reading it in the morning, and read it all afternoon until it was time for bed. I got so wrapped up in reading this book that reality faded away completely, and when I finished the book, I had a really difficult time getting out of the story and back into my real life. It was just that engrossing.
Ella Black is a seventeen-year-old girl who loves her friends and her cat. Her parents have always treated her well, and she has big dreams of traveling and painting the world she sees.
“Most people don’t think to question the basic foundations of their existence. I never did.”
However, Ella Black harbors a secret: Bella. Bella is the inner voice that sometimes pops out in her head, the one that tells her to do bad things, such as kill a bird with a hammer when her cat brings it through her window. Ella has had some rough times with Bella, but over the course of her life, she has learned how to keep her at bay for the most part, able to control her. She can’t always, but she tries. And no one else knows about Bella, not even her parents.
So one afternoon when her parents pull her out of school and give her a passport and plane tickets to Rio de Janeiro, putting them all on a flight without packing more than a handful of things, of course Ella gets curious. She has no idea why this is happening: she knows she has always wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro, and her parents have known that, too, but why the rush? So many things go through Ella’s head, including her being sick, but nothing could prepare her for the truth.
“Everything I thought I knew about my life is a lie.”
While in Rio, Ella manages to get away from her parents for a short time by faking sick, despite the fact that they are keeping a closer watch on her than ever before. It is then that Ella manages to break into the hotel room safe and discover why her parents have really brought her to Brazil, and what this means for her.
While at the hotel, she meets a boy that changes her life: she falls in love with him instantly, and nothing will ever be the same for Ella now that she has met him. She sneaks around behind her parents’ backs, and swears that whatever she does, she will try to be with him.
After a problematic encounter at a cafe causes Bella to break out in Ella’s mind, Ella flees the scene and promises that she won’t look back. Afraid the police and her parents are after her, she changes not only her name, but her appearance as well, trying to stay as hidden as she possibly can, even if that means living on the streets.
“Life is short. Weird things can happen. I don’t know who I am, and that feels fundamental.”
When she pieces together the final pieces of the nightmare that has become her life, she learns the real reason her parents sheltered her from the truth for such a long time. Creating a new identiy for herself, she promises to do whatever she can to stay hidden, even if it means lying to the boy she has fallen in love with.
If you’ve read The One Memory of Flora Banks, this book takes on the same style of writing and the main character, Ella Black, will probably seem familiar to you. Not familiar in a bad way or anything, just familiar in how she is written, and how the first person narrative plays out. I liked that. It reminded me enough of the author’s first book to make me remember why I love her writing so much, but had enough differences to not feel like it was just a rehash of that book. The writing style was amazingly done. So was the character creation.
I did find that Ella’s character really changes a lot toward the end of the book for a chapter or two here and there, and it almost kind of reminded me of a different character entirely, because of the way she was thinking and acting. I thought that was a little out of place after getting to know Ella for the whole book, but other than that, I loved this book so much that I honestly couldn’t put it down.
I’ve never been to Rio, but I can tell you right now that the way that the author painted the setting that it’s somewhere I really would love to visit. It was incredibly beautiful and well done, with just enough attention to detail to make you feel like you were right there alongside Ella.
I’m not one for insta-love, but I did like it in this book. I thought it was more or less believable, and I found it to be adorable and simply magical. Ella and Christian, the boy she falls in love with, try their hardest to spend as much time together as they can while they are both in Rio, and when things go wrong for Ella after she discovers the shocking truth her parents were hiding, Christian is the one she calls and tells everything to.
If you liked The One Memory of Flora Banks, you will love this book, too. I think it was a well written and exciting novel, and I was kept on the edge of my seat throughout the whole thing. The secret that Ella’s parents were hiding from her was not at all what I was expecting (I actually had my own theory, but it turned out to be WAY wrong, and I was so happy about it!), and the twists that happen in this book are more than enough to make you keep reading until you’ve turned the very last page.
Emily Barr (www.emilybarr.com) began her career as a journalist at the Guardian before realizing that she was more drawn toward books. After taking a year to go backpacking for a column assignment, she returned home with the idea for her first book, Backpack, and never looked back. She has since written 11 other books for adults. The One Memory of Flora Banks, her young adult debut and international bestseller, published to critical acclaim in 2017. Emily lives in Cornwall with her partner and their children. Follow her on Twitter @emily_barr.
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