YA Review: The Supreme Lie

Title: The Supreme Lie
Author: Geraldine McCaughrean 

What can I say about this book? The second book by Geraldine McCaughrean I have read proved to be every bit as quirky, wonderful, and unpredictable as the first (The White Darkness), and I was completely hooked.

Fifteen-year-old Gloria is a maid to the absolute ruler of Afalia, Madame Suprema. She is used to keeping her head down, serving meals with minimum fuss, and trying to stay invisible. When catastrophic floods devastate the country, Madame Suprema realises that she will be held responsible, and flees her home to avoid the consequences. Rather than allow the government to fall at such a critical moment, Gloria is chosen to impersonate the Suprema and bring the people of Afalia through the disaster.

Initially, Gloria is expected to follow a script and deceive the government and the people into believing the Suprema is still in control. As she finds herself drawn into the political turmoil and begins to witness the effects of the flooding, Gloria can’t help getting involved. While the Suprema’s husband is desperate to convince his young maid to stick to the script, Gloria’s interventions begin to draw attention from senators, factory owners, and the people she hopes to protect. Small decisions turn out to have catastrophic consequences, and Gloria finds herself risking the lives of her people as she desperately tries to do the right thing.

This is an absolutely gripping story with characters who grow more engaging as the complexities of the plot reveal themselves. There are no predictable moments, and no predictable outcomes as each decision brings further problems and complications. Gloria is a wonderful character, driven by compassion for the people and a conviction that she must use her new position to dispense help and justice instead of continuing the despotic self-serving actions of the real Suprema. The supporting cast includes the downtrodden husband of the Suprema, various devious politicians, Gloria’s childhood friend, and three dogs – two of whom expand the story in their own point-of-view chapters. Did I mention it was quirky?

The author uses humour and the absurdity of the situation to sneak some horrific events under the reader’s radar. Much of the narration feels lighthearted, while dealing with life-and-death decisions and disasters, and this technique allows the author to tell a sometimes harrowing story without plunging the reader into despair. Gloria’s optimism and determination to save people keeps the narrative feeling upbeat, and even when the reader can see danger in her actions, the maid-turned-Suprema keeps pushing for a positive outcome. The contrast between Gloria’s good intentions and the devious self-serving actions of the politicians adds menace to an already precarious setup, and the Suprema’s husband finds himself treading a careful line between the maid’s ambitions and the credibility of the lie.

The audiobook, read by Ailsa Joy, brings a perky 1920s newsreel atmosphere to the narration. It’s perfect for a quirky story that touches on so many serious issues, and I very much enjoyed listening.

Have you read The Supreme Lie? What did you think of Gloria’s story? What would you do in her place? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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