I was a little leery going into this book because I wasn't the biggest fan of Barr's debut. But I figured I'd give it a shot... and I'm still not really sure how I feel about it.

Hello everyone!

I am back with another review, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr. Thanks so much to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.

This book follows Ella Black, a girl who has always had a dark side. A side she has named Bella, who makes her do bad things. She's never told anyone about this side of herself, because how would they understand. One day, her parents drag her out of school in the middle of class and they get on a plane without telling her what is happening. Next thing Ella knows, she is in Rio de Janeiro, a place she has always wanted to go - but her parents won't tell her why. Ella finds out that her life has been a lie, that her parents are not her biological parents, but her adoptive ones. Soon, Ella realizes the real reason they brought her to Rio and the secrets of her past begin to unravel.

Ok, so first of all, as I said, I didn't love Barr's previous book so I went into this one pretty sure I wasn't going to be a fan. In fact, I told myself if I made it 100 pages in (typically my standard try) and wasn't a fan, I could put it down. But I kept reading, and the next thing I knew, I had finished the book. Now, I'm not saying I loved every second of this book or that I don't have issues, I do. I'm just saying I wasn't sure I would be able to finish it and I did so that's gotta count for something, right?

I wasn't really the biggest fan of Ella - or any of the characters really - aside from the minor side characters we see for 50 some pages and then never hear from again. I believe she's supposed to be 16 years old but sounded much younger than that - which is typically fine, but there didn't really seem to be a reason for it. She was also irritating and a bit irrational. I know she's got some stuff going on in her head but she was just so mean sometimes.

This book also deals with adoption and adoptive parents. Now, I'm not adopted, nor do I have anyone super close to me that has been adopted so I am certainly not the authority on adoption but I just felt like some of Ella's critiques of her circumstances were a bit dramatic and unfounded. She immediately hated her parents and didn't let them explain at all before jumping to the conclusion that her birth mother was some sad, pregnant teen who had no support system and had to give her up. Now maybe that's just a coping mechanism but the ton of the book itself shifted to be very much against adoption - which for many is the right choice. I might not know what I'm talking about but it just felt like the book was being a little insensitive.

Beyond that, I did enjoy parts of this book. Most of it was set in Rio and you could really tell, this wasn't one of those books where the setting was in the periphery. I loved the nightlife and adventures Ella had in Rio and Barr did a really good job of making them come to life. There were a couple, let's call them educational moments, where Ella was shown how different Rio was from the stereotypes she had come to learn, particularly with the slums and poorer areas. Again, perhaps a touchy subject that was a bit assertive?

I think the part that really gets me is that nothing of Ella's mental illness is addressed in the book. I *think* Barr was trying to set up some sort of nature vs. nurture thing with that epilogue, but I wasn't buying it. Not to mention we see no real treatment, explanation, engagement with her 'second personality' and really, the book could have gone on just fine without it.

Overall, I could probably write a long and winding review about this book but I would still be conflicted. It was unlike any other book I've read, but I'm not sure if that is enough to make up for my issues with it.