Books: The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

“Ella Black seems to live the life most other seventeen-year-olds would kill for . . .

Until one day, telling her nothing, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to find out why, Ella takes her chance and searches through their things…”

Review: This book explores deep themes in relation to concepts of “nature versus nurture”, societal assumptions, rehabilitation, and family. It also touches on themes relating to mental health and the thought processes that operate beneath the surface of people who pass us by, unnoticed, in everyday life.

The opening section toys with the concepts of multiple-personality disorder, with Ella’s “good personality” barely managing to keep her alter ego Bella in check. As the book progresses it moves on to explore interesting concepts in relation to repressed memories and how they manage to break through to our present.

The strength to this book lies in its narrative structure, which propels the story-line along. It rations out the full story at a tantalizing pace and Barr is adept at keeping the reader in suspense. The Rio backdrop is interesting and challenges our assumptions about the nature of the city and what makes it tick. The book is told from the perspective of Ella, and her thought processes – including dueling thought processes – are used to channel the flow of the book.

This book is pitched for young adults, but there are dark themes at play and some of the material is pretty heavy. Nonetheless the warmth of the Rio backdrop, bathes Ella’s turmoil in a sunkissed light, and the positive undertones of survival of character balance the darker themes. A book that will be enjoyed by those seeking to ruminate on how we develop as adults, and what exactly drives our personalities.


Score 8 out of 10


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