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Literary Glance: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

August 6, 2017

I was going to start off by saying that The Lying Game by Ruth Ware has a stupid title.  But then I thought maybe stupid is a harsh word.  As an aspiring author, I should be more precise and diplomatic with my word choice.

Maybe it’s better to say that The Lying Game is not the best book title in the world.  To be fair, I’m not sure what the best book title in the world is, but The Lying Game is probably not it.

First of all, the word game is overused in book titles nowadays.  Just offhand, I can think of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, Game of Thrones, The Most Dangerous Game, and The Westing Game.  Even James Patterson is cashing in on the word game with Murder Games.  The word game always implies something deadly in fiction.  Book authors are supposed to be masters of the written word.  They could at least use a thesaurus and come up with an original word.

Plus, this lying game in The Lying Game was made up (from what I’ve read) by a few teenage girls.  The female characters would lie to people and see if their lies were believed or not.  This sounds like something teenage girls would do.  I’ve never been a teenage girl, but I’m a dad with two of them.

Plus, when I was a teenage boy, I dealt with a lot of teenage girls, and this lying game sounds like something girls might do, but they probably wouldn’t call it a lying game.  That’s too obvious.  Girls would make a code word or code phrase for a lying game.  If an adult hears girls talking about a lying game, the adult knows what’s going on, and girls who are lying as a form of entertainment would probably be more clever than that.

Since I’ve never been a teenage girl, the code phrase that I would have used would be different from what teen girls would use.  I was a chess club type nerd boy in school, so I would have come up with something stupid like The Polygraph Society.  Then I would have lost every challenge because I’ve always been a crappy liar.  I was a crappy chess player too.

It sounds like the characters in The Lying Game did something as teenagers that is coming back to haunt them as adults.  It’s one of those books that’s told in a bunch of flashbacks while the character’s thinking.  So far, there’s only been one narrator, and I’m not sure how reliable she is.  It seems like I’ve read a lot of books structured like this recently, so I’m tempted to skip to the last couple chapters just to see what the big deal is.  20 years ago, I would have considered that as cheating, but I’m older now without as much time left (I don’t mean that in a cryptic way; I’m busy with a job and a family… and pets.  If it weren’t for the damn pets….).

I know I have to be careful when I’m critical of books.  An author like Ruth Ware is making a bunch of money and millions of people are reading her books, while I have a blog and a couple ebooks that a few people maybe have read.  So there’s a good chance that I’m wrong about all of this.  Maybe there’s no good synonym for the word game in the thesaurus.  Maybe somebody Ruth Ware knows actually played a lying game and called it a lying game.

I would ask my daughters what code phrase they would use for a lying game, but I don’t want to give them ideas that can be used against me.  I think they have enough of those already.


What do you think?  Is The Lying Game a good title?  If you’ve ever been a teenage girl, what code name would you come up with for a lying game?

  1. I think I may be the wrong person to comment on this as I actually know her a little – she mentored me for a while and she’s really lovely.
    However, your post is not about how lovely she is but mainly about the title and you’re right, it’s not the best ever picked. I suspect it’s been chosen by the publisher, don’t you? The kind of catchy, enigmatic – possibly deadly – title that sticks in people’s heads, which is what publishers want it to do after all. At least it isn’t a psycholigacl thriller with the word ‘Girl’ in the title. Had enough of those to last two lifetimes.
    Maybe you should think of ‘losing’ some pets. Then you’d have time to read more books. 🙂

    • That would be awesome, getting mentored by an author like Ruth Ware. I bet that was a great experience.

      A celebrity author yawned in my face at a book signing once. That’s about as close as I’ve been to getting mentored by a bestselling author.

      • Ha! Do tell which author was struggling to stay awake.
        Yes, being mentored by Ruth was a very positive experience. I applied to the scheme she was part of at the time and she accepted me – a small vindication of my writing to begin with. And she was very positive and encouraging throughout, though this was before she changed her name and began writing crime fiction. She was writing YA under the name Ruth Warburton when she mentored me.
        It’s the closest I’ve ever got to any famous author, before they were famous – though I don’t suppose she’d have the time to mento anyone now! 🙂

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