One of my favorite plots to experience is a middle grade contemporary first person narration. More than once though I feel a bit let down by the voice coming from the character. It can sound like an adult speaking or an older teen.

The first lines of Beth Vrabel’s LIES I TOLD MYSELF set my apprehension aside. Soon to be fifth grader Raymond’s voice had me anxious to read more right from the opening paragraph:


I’m fine.

Except for the chicken on my head.

I was pretty sure she hated me.


The 28 chapters aren’t labeled as chapters but instead take the form of lies (First Lie, Second Lie, etc.) They aren’t lies so much as they are misconceptions about life and the people you care about. The first lie is I’M FINE and you soon discover the emotional weight he carries.

Raymond’s musician father has sent him to stay with the mother’s grandparents in Maine. His older sister Sara stays behind. His last memory of his Mom is when she left when he was in Kindergarten—never bothering to contact him again.

So now Raymond is stuck in a place he doesn’t want to be with grandparents who don’t understand him. Despite not wanting to be there, he vows to do three things during his stay: Learn to ride a bike, learn how to swim, and make friends. None of these pursuits go well.

He first meets Clementine, a girl whose blunt approach sets him back. Their potential friendship takes quite a few detours. But through each chapter, Raymond sees his own path to growing up woven ever so perfectly from others, including reading his great grandfather’s journal.

Raymond is a great narrator and his often humorous take on what he believes will have you connecting to him more with each passing page. LIES I TELL MYSELF is a companion to last year’s TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, but this is a separate tale that you can read without experiencing the first.

Heartwarming and always a strong voice. I’ll always remember Raymond.


  1. The character arc for the grandparents was a strong companion to the one experienced by Raymond. Well done in all aspects.
  2. The chicken also played a big role in the healing process for the family. Who knew a chicken could have so much drive and personality!
  3. I’ll never understand the mom . The way she was portrayed had her on my worst list of adult characters in literature. Maybe we need to see her own title for adults centered around the bad choices she made and why.
  4. The emotion coming out of each chapter had me flipping the pages for more.
  5. Loved the ending which seemed more like a new beginning for the cast of characters.


Beth Vrabel is an award-winning author of books for middle grade readers.

But she can’t clap to the beat nor be trusted near Nutella. Beth lives in New England with her family and spoiled-rotten puppies, Jasper and Jupiter.

(For more visit Beth’s Author site)

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to LIES I TELL MYSELF

  1. Sounds an interesting story, and I am intrigued by the role of the chicken! 🙂 Animals are wonderful at healing, and I am happy to see a bird played a part. Happy 4th of July!

  2. schmelzb says:

    Beth Vrabel impresses me with her MG novels each year. I liked THE NEWSPAPER CLUB, but your review shows Vrabel is writing meatier books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Raymond and his growth.

  3. msyingling says:

    My students really like her Blind Guide to Stinkville, so I may have to revisit this one. I seem to remember thinking it was a little younger. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. This sounds like a great summer read. Thanks for sharing and Happy 4th of July.

  5. carolbaldwin says:

    Great review and sounds like a terrific book. thanks for sharing.

  6. This sounds interesting. I like how she titles her chapters.

  7. This sounds very intriguing. The first paragraph definitely makes the reader want to know more. Thanks for sharing. This is one I will keep my eye out for!

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