Caroline’s Choice July 2016: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Whilst there continues to be a proliferation of new titles coming onto the YA marketplace giving readers a delectable diet of Summer reading, I thought it would be good to have a look at one of the hot YA books from 2015.

Published in May 2015, The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge met with wide acclaim and not only won the Cost Book of the Year in 2015 – the first Children’s book to do since Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass in 2001 – but the awards and shortlists keep coming.  Too many to list here, but check them out here.

So, what’s all the fuss about?  The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

On first impressions, this seems like a dark, fantastical read and as a reader, I was intrigued to know more.  Just what is a Lie Tree?  When is it ok to tell a lie?  I was pleasantly surprised to discover a teenage girl called Faith set at the heart of this tale against the backdrop of Victorian Britain where intelligent, curious girls were held in little regard, let alone supported and encouraged as they are today.

Exploring the realms of science and legend in a post-Darwin Britain that brings the tightly woven bonds of religion into question, whilst balancing this against the weighty issues of loss and grief, girl-meets-boy and the morality of lying is difficult to say the least.  And yet, Hardinge navigates all of these dark, foreboding waters with a literary grace and tenacity that is compelling and rewarding.

This book is so many things – a murder mystery, a thriller, a horror, a coming of age tale, but undeniably it is an excellent read.  I’ve said it before, I don’t fall into the YA age group, but this is a book that can be enjoyed by children, young adults and adults alike.  I gave it to my friend’s daughter who’s 12, and she identified with Faith and devoured it over a weekend.

It was thrilling to read of Faith’s exploits on the remote, close-quartered island of Vane.  ‘In Faith’s mind, it was always that‘ this thirst for knowledge that called to her and ‘there was a delicious, poisonous pleasure in stealing it unseen’ (p7-8).  Faith undertakes a journey filled with danger, excitement and enlightenment that leads to a discovery of herself and the bigger, adult world around her.  A theme that is familiar in YA fiction, yet delivered with such originality here that it’s as though you are experiencing it afresh.  The Lie Tree itself is a small, foul-smelling plant seemingly innocuous and unremarkable at first to Faith as she tests it, feeds it, with a little lie, but it soon reveals itself to be an over-bearing, insatiable monstrosity, the consequences of its presence as far reaching as its roots.

The Chair of Judges on the Costa Book Award panel, James Heneage said “Lots of 14-year-old girls today would also feel they are out of touch. I have daughters and I know they have quite often in their lives felt out of touch and this book brilliantly articulates what goes on in a clever 14-year-old girl’s mind.”*

There is so much to enjoy in this book and I am going to look forward to reading it again over the Summer with my son.  I hope it makes it onto school reading lists so children can enjoy dissecting it in their English Lit classes.

I hope you enjoy it too.  Have you read it?  Let me know what you think.

*sourced from




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