Full disclosure – I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book by the authors but have voluntarily provided a review. All opinions are my own.
If you could replace your sibling with a better version, would you?
When a snow delay turns into a snow day for warring siblings Nicole and Jay Hallett the situation looks bleak. So when an “infomercial” pitches the opportunity of replacing her brother with a new and improved version Nicole takes the plunge. After all, what could go wrong? Jaybot is the perfect picture of a model sibling because he is programmed to her specifications. And if she doesn’t like something all she needs to do is reach out to Phin, the mysterious “salesperson” for adjustments. But modifications are not without consequences and soon she is dodging multiplying holes that drag her into “read-only” versions of her most painful memories to date. The more Nicole is affronted with her shallowness, the more the light begins to dawn and the more she does not like the person she sees. But this can’t be her fault, right? It must be her brother or friends or someone else to blame for her problems. And little does Nic know that her brother has been provided with the same deal as she has, and after living on an alternate plane for a day with his very own Nicbot, will everything go back to normal once the day is over, or will one of them be replaced forever?
What do you get when you cross the Cat in the Hat, with Gene Wilder’s rendition of Willy Wonka and add in a dash of Jumanji and Jigsaw for fun? This is exactly how I pictured Phineas Lindencroft, the sly mastermind behind the Nic and Jay bots in David J. Naiman’s The Finest Lies. While cordial and accommodating on the surface, there is still a hint of sinister to this strange character that cannot be ignored. Be it a word here, or a look there, the sinister is never far away and comes to the forefront in full force in the final chapters. Written primarily from Nicole’s point of view, we are initially introduced to a self-absorbed, shallow “mean girl” of sorts, but as her story starts to play out and she is dragged into the holes the reader learns that there is always more to the story. On the flip side of the coin is Jay’s story, and while not as dramatic still is no less important to the overall narrative, themes, and moral lessons being crafted by Naiman. With certain more adult themes explored in several flashbacks, I would not suggest this book for younger readers, however, if you have a teenager who may have a slightly volatile relationship with their sibling, this would be an entertaining title to give them. With The Finest Lies, Naiman has delivered a story that is as fanciful and entertaining as it is thought-provoking. Whether you have siblings that you want to trade in or are an only child, this is a good read that will find its way to my “to be read again” list.