The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr, published by Penguin on 11th January 2018
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. And realises her life has been a lie.
Unable to comprehend the truth, Ella runs away, to the one place her mother and father will never think to look - the favelas.
But there she learns a terrible secret - the truth about her real parents and their past. And the truth about a mother, desperate for a daughter taken from her seventeen years ago . . .
I love books that constantly take me by surprise and 'The Truth and Lies of Ella Black' certainly did that. The story is quite dark and twisted, keeping me on my toes throughout. There were quite a few aspects of the plot that turned out very differently to what I had been originally expecting.
The main character is a seventeen year old called Ella Black, who it is soon evident is far from a normal teenager. She has another personality inside of her who she calls Bella and who is extremely dangerous when let out. Ella tries her best to keep Bella under control but there is a real power struggle between the two of them. There's a pretty nasty scene of animal abuse quite early on in the book when Bella temporarily takes over and I found that extremely hard to read. I originally thought that Ella might have schizophrenia which could have been causing a split personality disorder but then later events made me change my mind.
This was a story that felt like stepping on sand. The ground beneath my feet was continually slipping as new elements to the story unravelled. One minute Ella is hanging out with her two best friends and the next minute her parents are whisking her off to Brazil. She's made to leave everything she knows behind - her friends, her cat Humphrey and all traces of her old life. The reader is left guessing the reason for the quick exit for quite a while, although there are hints given about the real reason behind the trip.
Ella's love interest in the book is a slightly older guy called Christian, who she meets in Brazil. It's definitely a case of insta-love which I found slightly creepy. He seems to fall very quickly into the shoes of white knight to Ella but I didn't find his character believable at all. He doesn't question anything that Ella reveals to him, even though he's only just met her and I found it hard to believe that he'd go so far out of his way to help her.
The final chapter of the story was unexpected and again made me rethink my thoughts about some of the characters in the book. I did prefer the first half more than the second, as I thought the pace was much slower at the end and some of the events seemed a little far-fetched. This was the first book I've read by Emily Barr and overall I enjoyed it. If you like YA thrillers with complicated heroines then this is definitely worth a read.