Deepa Agarwal
Deepa Agarwal
THE LIES WE TELL by Himanjali Sankar Duckbill Books, 2019, 140 pp., 295
November 2019, volume 43, No 11

Reaching adulthood by overcoming a challenging situation is the predominant theme in Young Adult fiction. This is exactly what the protagonist, seventeen-year-old Irfan Ahmed accomplishes in The Lies We Tell.

Irfan seems to have everything going for him. Two wonderful friends, Uma and Rishi, who have been close to him since pre-primary. They have stood by each other through the most difficult circumstances—Irfan’s depression after his beloved older sister Sanya’s departure, and Rishi’s troubled family situation. But as they enter their teens, the relationship between the besties undergoes a shift. The warm, innocent world of childhood, where the three are always there for each other metamorphoses into the messy landscape of sexual rivalry.

Irfan and Uma fall in love and Rishi is sporting about it. Then one day, inexplicably Uma dumps Irfan for Rishi. It is a terrible blow and Irfan finds himself slipping into an emotional abyss. Matters come to a head when a nude photograph of Uma goes viral over WhatsApp and Irfan becomes the only suspect, even though he denies it vehemently. Everyone shuns him and his world spirals swiftly into chaos. It seems as if neither psychiatric help nor his parents’ feeble attempts to reach out to him can help. It is only the emails he keeps writing to his absent sister that can hold him together. He accepts his pariah like status among his school friends but alongside his grades fall further and further. The seriousness of his condition jolts his parents only when it becomes obvious to his schoolmates that he has lost his mental balance. Just when it seems nothing can save him, a tragedy pulls Irfan back from the brink.

Continue reading this review