The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.
She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.
But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—
And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.
Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.
If you’ve ever wanted to know about the other side of obsessive friendship, this is the book you need. One of my favourite tropes to read about in books is the sick, pining friendship, and I’ve only really imagined it from the person who’s pining. The Best Lies takes this trope and twists it into something gruelingly real and dangerous, showing just how toxic some friendships can become.
The book opens just after the murder of Remy’s boyfriend, Jack, with her best friend/ soulmate Elise being the one who pulled the trigger. Remy is, understandably, in an absolutely awful place as the book opens, but as the reader continues it turns out that a lot of Remy’s life has been shaped by reactions to trauma. It’s what draws her to Elise in the first place: both of them have been deeply hurt in their childhood, and it’s why they can connect so well to each other. I could really connect with Remy: she’s quieter and more timid, with more of a propensity to hide from her problems than enact revenge like Elise compels her to. Like Remy, I’m very mediocre compared to the rest of my family, and I can definitely see why Remy does what she does over the course of the book, because I would do them as well.
Though Remy narrates the book, I’d argue that Elise is definitely the true protagonist of The Best Lies: so much of Remy’s thoughts revolve around Elise. From the moment they meet, Remy and Elise are attached at the hip, and even after Elise shoots Jack, Remy desperately tries to protect her. Elise and Remy refer to themselves as more than best friends: soulmates, family, and until Remy meets Jack, the two are absolutely insepratable. Elise is such a fascinating character, oddly sympathetic even though you know what happens and what the book is gearing up to as it goes on. Elise is a character who, in many ways, is shaped by her history of complex trauma, and many of her actions throughout the book are reactions to her experiences.
The Best Lies is, among other things, an in-depth discussion of the nature of trauma and abuse and toxic people. Both Remy and Elise have had a lifetime of traumatic situations: Remy’s parents argue constantly and threaten divorce, and her mom clearly favours her brother over her; on the other hand, Elise’s father is abusive in a way that one would imagine. Both are portrayed as inherently traumatic and life-changing, even though one may be considered objectively worse than the other. The author herself comes from a history of abuse, and the message running throughout the book is clear: abuse and trauma does not excuse the perpetuation of more abuse and trauma, and even if your trauma isn’t objectively the worst, it’s still valid, because it still hurt. It’s such a nuanced and realistic look at the nature of trauma and how people deal with it.
Even though it’s told through alternating perspectives, which would make one think that there would be a foregone conclusion, the book never quite loses its momentum. Not only is it a murder mystery, it’s a tale of an obsessively spiraling friendship between two desperate girls, and the two stories in past and present complement each other perfectly. I was absolutely entranced by the story, and couldn’t stop reading it even as the clock ticked closer and closer to morning.
I have seen some people say that this was a sapphic book, and in the interest of not misleading anyone I want to be clear that the relationship between Elise and Remy is not explicitly sapphic. It can certainly be read as such, and I did read a lot into their relationship. Neither Elise or Remy are explicitly straight, either, so there’s a lot of room for reader interpretation either way.
I highly recommend The Best Lies to anyone who’s a fan of dangerous girls, and anyone who can relate to girls who are just trying to survive day to day. It’s a harsh book and can get dark at times, but it’s also incredibly well-written and incredibly complex in its narration and characterization.
Thank you to the publisher & Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy!
content warnings | abuse (emotional & physical), manipulation, grief, suicide mentions, death
rep | asian mc, abuse survivor
are there any books you’ve read with obsessive friendships?? do you plan to read the best lies??