The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu: A Gutting Portrayal of Toxic Friendship in a Psychological Thriller

A gutting and honest portrayal of abuse and toxic friendship, Sarah Lyu’s debut The Best Lies is a psychological thriller with an alternating timeline and strong storyline of growth.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when reading this, but it absolutely sucked me in.

As in, I was completely engrossed in the toxic friendship between Remy and Elise, and reading it was like having your eyes glued to a trainwreck and not being able to do anything. There were so many things Lyu did well with this novel, and it’s so severely underhyped it breaks my heart.

(Also, please check out the content warnings in the summary at the bottom because there are some more mature themes in here!)

Obviously, I wouldn’t be raving about this without the amazing portrayal of a toxic friendship.

This was honestly the highlight of this story, and although there’s a little romance, Elise & Remy’s friendship is 100% the main focus of the story.

Lyu did just a phenomenal job of showing how Remy felt dependent on Elise, felt guilty if Elise got hurt, and was developing this really toxic relationship with her friend. Even though the manipulation was pretty clear to me, I can with certainty tell you that a lot of teens definitely won’t realize the harm and signals of their friendship, and this was really well done.

Especially when Remy got into a relationship with Jack, it became more and more clear about how Elise guilted Remy into her friendship and strived to make her dependent. I also think the use of some popular revenge films (which you shouldn’t try and imitate!) were little subtle clues along the way that really showed how Elise needed help that Remy couldn’t give.

Toxic friendships are so complicated and each one is different, but Lyu’s formation of Remy and Elise’s was a total hook and had so many true elements: the way that Elise found Remy when she was at one of her lows, the way Elise made Remy feel guilty, the way Elise manipulated Remy to believe her narrative.  

The thriller part was engrossing and hooked me—especially with the alternating timeline.

I can tell you with certainty that I generally don’t like thrillers and a lot of mysteries that don’t have some other element.

But The Best Lies definitely hooked me, and I loved the way the alternating timeline was structured—with most of the story showing Elise and Remy’s friendship and small parts where it was after the big event where Elise murdered Jack. The transition from the earlier to the later timeline was so seamless, I honestly didn’t notice it. I absolutely adored the way Lyu incorporated this in.

It transitions and tells the story so seamlessly, and I was totally engrossed—both because of the question of what really happened that night, and because of wanting to see how Remy and Elise’s friendship turned out.

It was really compelling, and this definitely wasn’t a problem with The Best Lies for me.

Overall, it’s a fantastic read, and also one I wouldn’t hesitate to hand to a younger reader.

It’s 100% a quieter release (in the sense that it’s not getting a huge push, nor is it a super flashy premise), but it packs a really huge gut punch.

I think if a younger reader can handle the content warnings, I wouldn’t hesitate to hand this to them (and also Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Our Year of Maybe). Toxic friendships are so important to know about and this is a really good portrayal that is super compelling.

I do kind of wish that Elise’s closure was explored more, but I also think this is Remy’s story. (Also, I felt like The Best Lies was coded as sapphic, but it’s not explicit as far as I know. But I felt it.)

This is also a small note, but the way Lyu portrayed Remy’s parents fighting? It felt so real and I genuinely loved the rawness of the feeling of how it affected Remy. This was very well done and so on point.

Overall, The Best Lies is a debut with a strong foundation, and I’m excited to see what Lyu writes in the future!

Also, I have a giveaway for a copy of The Best Lies running on Twitter! You can check it out below! It’s also international!

4.5 stars

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Remy struggles to fit into her home and school—not living up to her mom’s comparison to her brother, not being an overachiever like the girls she sits with, and now being left by her boyfriend. Her parents are fighting and things aren’t going well.

But when she meets Elise and they prank her ex-boyfriend, Elise becomes the center of Remy’s life. Someone who makes her feel loved and seen, someone who makes her feel alive. But things begin to spiral, and when Elise kills Remy’s boyfriend Jack, Remy will have to confront her and Elise’s friendship and just what is really happening.

Content Warnings: child abuse, small hints of suicidal thoughts, toxic friendships, arson, murder, intense parental fighting

add to goodreads here

Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster for sending me an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review!

Do you have any recs for books about toxic friendship?

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2 thoughts on “The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu: A Gutting Portrayal of Toxic Friendship in a Psychological Thriller

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