An intense high-stakes story about five friends and the deadly secret that could send their lives up in flames, perfect for fans of Karen McManus and E. Lockhart.
In Gap Mountain, California, everyone knows about fire season. And no one is more vigilant than 18-year-old Hannah Warner, the sheriff’s daughter and aspiring FBI agent. That is until this summer. When Hannah and her best friends accidentally spark an enormous and deadly wildfire, their instinct is to lie to the police and the fire investigators.
But as the blaze roars through their rural town and towards Yosemite National Park, Hannah’s friends begin to crack and she finds herself going to extreme lengths to protect their secret. Because sometimes good people do bad things. And if there’s one thing people hate, it’s liars.
What I Loved
Lies Like Wildfire is a haunting and memorable tale even without the wildfire blowing through their small town. It is not just a complex, edge-of-your-seat thriller. It’s also a rather tragic tale of a group of friends growing up and moving on literally and emotionally. The transition between high school and adulthood can be challenging to traverse with friends and significant others, in particular. This novel makes that reality hit home like no other story I’ve read before. This is a story about a group of teens who must face a tragedy that could either cement their bond as friends or blow it up at its very foundation.
The wildfire event keeps the pages flipping very fast for the first half of the book. Living on the east coast of the US, I’ve been fortunate to never experience anything like the wildfires that rage on the west coast. You hear news reports about them all the time, but it all seems so distant and far removed. This story made each little aspect of the fire feel so real, from the innocent and accidental way it was started to how quickly it got out of control and the lives and property lost as a result. When the characters were running for their lives from the fire, tears welled up in my eyes at just the pure emotions that were also raging.
I loved the theme of good versus evil and if doing the wrong thing for the right reason is a morally acceptable gray area. It is very complicated, as many ethical issues are, and exploring that gray area is profound and thrilling in its own way. This exploration takes up an extra few notches as one of the “monsters” goes missing, which keeps the pages flipping rapidly in the second half of the novel. Did someone do the unthinkable? Does that morally gray area suddenly turn the darkest shade of black? These questions provide all that a reader can hope for in a thriller: plenty of twists and turns, loads of red herrings, and the eventual jaw-dropping conclusion with all its many complex and deeply profound connotations.
Reminds Me Of
In the blurb, it is compared to One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus. I can see that. It also goes a bit deeper, exploring internal and external issues that force the characters to define who they want to be in this world.
What I Wish
As I read this jaw-dropping story, the only thing that I found myself wishing was the inclusion of a few complete scenes of what the group of friends was like together before the fire. There are brief reflections here and there, but I never felt like I got a good sense of what that bond was like before it was tested. I think, for me, it would have taken that tragic aspect of the story to a deeper level if I could picture the dynamics of “monsters” when it was strongest.
Hannah is the main character and unreliable narrator of the story. She is one of five “monsters” – a group of friends named for their shared desire to not be a human in a Where the Wild Things Are play when they were 7 years old. They were forever best friends after that summer and even came up with rules to keep their friendships solid and untested.
I can’t say that I really liked any of the teens. Mo (Maureen) was the most relatable for me, but I even got frustrated with her by the end of the story. They are each very complex individuals struggling to find their place in the world, and they are all made up of a mixed bag of good qualities and frustrating qualities. Even though totally fitting their age, I did appreciate that the characters did not come across as whiny or superficially angsty. Instead, their emotions deeply reflected having to navigate ethical issues that would eventually define them.
To Read or Not to Read
A thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and make you reflect on the morally gray areas, Lies Like Wildfire is a book you will not be able to put down. Even when you do, you will find yourself reflecting back on it and all the deeper meanings contained within its pages.
I received my B.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley. I’m fascinated by underdogs and power dynamics between groups of people.
I’m the author of LIES LIKE WILDFIRE, a teen thriller soon-to-be published by Delacorte Press, and two middle grade book series, each published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, THE GUARDIAN HERD (a quartet) and RIDERS OF THE REALM (a trilogy). Before this, I self-published a middle grade fantasy called THE PET WASHER.
When I’m not writing, you’ll find me galloping my little black mare through the foothills of Sonoma County or teaching free creative writing workshops to kids and adults at various branches of our local library system.
The Healdsburg Literary Guild selected me as their 2019/2020 Literary Laureate for my work in building literacy in my community. It is an honor I hold dear. I am also the current SCBWI Sonoma County Coordinator and a volunteer on the Sonoma County Library Advisory Board.
I live in Northern California with my husband, three children, and more than my fair share of pets!