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“A twisted modern love story” (Parade), Tell Me Lies is a sexy, thrilling novel about that one person who still haunts you—the other one. The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget.

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother—whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Lucy knows there’s something about Stephen that isn’t to be trusted. Stephen knows Lucy can’t tear herself away. And their addicting entanglement will have consequences they never could have imagined.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Stephen’s voices, Tell Me Lies follows their connection through college and post-college life in New York City. “Readers will be enraptured” (Booklist) by the “unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story” (Kirkus Review). With the psychological insight and biting wit of Luckiest Girl Alive, and the yearning ambitions and desires of Sweetbitter, this keenly intelligent and supremely resonant novel chronicles the exhilaration and dilemmas of young adulthood and the difficulty of letting go—even when you know you should.

This reading group guide for Tell Me Lies includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Early on, Lucy repeatedly states that she is not immediately attracted to Stephen. Do you believe her? Why or why not?

2. Considering things only from Lucy’s perspective, do you see any red flags that should have tipped her off to Stephen’s true nature? What are some warning signs you have noticed in your own, or your friends’, relationships?

3. At the beginning of the book, there are two epigraphs: one from The Unbearable Lightness of Being and the other from Before I Fall. What effect did reading these quotes initially have on you? Did they affect your mind-set entering the first chapter or color how you interpreted the characters? While these quotes clearly hold true for Lucy, how might they be applicable for Stephen?

4. Stephen takes manipulating people around him to an extreme, but many of his methods are very common. Have you ever made something up to get someone to like you? Do you have (or have you ever had) “tactics” for dating in order to win your romantic interest over?

5. How are Lucy and her mother, CJ, alike? To what degree is Lucy aware of these similarities, and how does her awareness change over the course of the novel?

6. Stephen feels certain he is destined for “bigger things” than most people around him. What does having a “bigger life” mean to him? At the end of the epilogue, Lucy’s mother tells her that she has to dream “really, really big.” Do Lucy and Stephen have similar ideas of what that broad ambition means? How so or how do they differ?

7. During her college years, Lucy struggles with unhealthy eating habits and an obsession with thinness before ultimately being diagnosed with depression. In what ways did a fixation on food and exercise serve as an outlet for Lucy? Did this element of her character strike a chord with you in any way?

8. Stephen makes a number of assertions about the way the world works. Choose three of his pronouncements that you agree with along with ones you firmly disagree with and share them with your group.

9. Both Lucy and Stephen have traumatic events from their past that continue to haunt them. What effect do you think their respective experiences have on their behavior?

10. In the present-day storyline, in which Lucy is attending Bree’s wedding, Lucy is twenty-five years old. In what ways has she grown since her relationship with Stephen, and in what ways do you think she still needs to grow? How do you imagine these experiences will shape who she is ten years from now?

11. While Stephen and Lucy’s connection is the narrative’s primary romance, Lucy’s relationship with her friends is arguably a love story of a different kind. What were some of your favorite examples of how Lucy’s friends supported or expressed their love for her?

12. What would this book be like if it were only told from Lucy’s perspective or only from Stephen’s?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Consider having all members of your book group bring a photo and/or share a story of a “Stephen” from their life. As you share your stories, some questions you could potentially address are: How did you meet? How did you discover the person you met wasn’t the person you hoped? If you could go back in time, would you do things differently?

2. While Tell Me Lies centers on Stephen and Lucy’s toxic relationship, Stephen also has a prolonged, perhaps equally unhealthy relationship with Diana. However, we see her only through Stephen’s and Lucy’s eyes. Try writing a scene from Diana’s perspective. Consider jumping off of a scene in the book in which Stephen interacts with her or creating a scene from their earlier relationship, before Stephen met Lucy. In what ways does their relationship parallel Stephen’s relationship with Lucy and in what ways does it differ? Are his interpretations of how she reacts to and feels about him accurate? If you are creating a scene from earlier in their relationship, has their dynamic shifted over time? Share your writing pieces with your group.

3. In the epilogue, Lucy decides to quit her job and leave New York City. Have you ever, or would you ever, leave behind the life you’ve built without a new job or destination lined up? If you had a new chance at pursuing your dreams, where would you go? What would you want to do? Share a story of a time when you made a fresh start to move on from something in your past, or share a time when you have been glad you stayed in a situation that didn’t initially feel as if it was working.
Photograph by Kacey Klonsky

Carola Lovering attended Colorado College, and her work has appeared in W Magazine, National Geographic, Outside, and Yoga Journal, among other publications. Tell Me Lies is her first novel. She currently lives in Brooklyn. 

"A twisted modern love story.

– Parade

“Think: The Affair meets Animal House meets your beach bag. Get into it.”

– TheSkimm

Tell Me Lies is a page-turner. I devoured it in 48 hours.”

– Jessica Knoll, New York Times bestselling author of Luckiest Girl Alive and The Favorite Sister


– Cosmopolitan

“Everything you could ever want in a summer read.”

– USA Today

"Weaving between perspectives, Carola Lovering’s addictive—and toxic—love story explores the pains of letting go… for good."

– Us Weekly

A sizzling summer read, Tell Me Lies is an absorbing novel with plenty of twists and surprises along the way, including a satisfying reveal near the end. But it's also a fascinating examination of toxic relationships, dysfunctional relationships, and the bad habit we have all been guilty of having: confusing lust with love, drama with maturity, and Mr. Wrong for Mr. Right. Only maybe now, after seeing Lucy and Stephen's trainwreck unfold, we'll all be able to recognize the signs in our own lives a lot sooner.”

– Bustle

If you were pulled in by Joe's passion in You, you'll fall for Stephen and his unique charm in Tell Me Lies.

– PopSugar

“This story of addictive love is the perfect companion for a day at the beach.”

– Working Mother

“A dark, exhilarating coming-of-age story...there might be no better addition to your beach bag.” 

– Town and Country, Best Books to Read This June

A coming-of-age story that explores the consequences and tribulations of still being haunted by the wrong one who you just can’t let go of, the book is narrated by both Lucy and her love interest, Stephen. Watch as their relationship grows and changes throughout college and after-grad life in NYC, within the push and pull of not-right young romance, and not quite being able to let go.” 

– Brides

"Weaving between perspectives, Carola Lovering's addictive—and toxic—love story explores the pains of letting go...for good."

– Us Weekly

“As the years pass and shocking twists reveal themselves, the more hooked you’ll be. Tell Me Lies is the perfect thrilling summer read."

– Hello Giggles

If you are searching for a toxic love story (and sometimes you just need one), this is it.

– Levo League

"Lovering’s debut is like a chemical reaction, exploding with sex, drugs, and all things that make a relationship toxic. Told by alternating point-of-view between Lucy and Stephen, this coming-of-age story will strike a chord with readers. From the emotionally raw, vulnerable, yet addicting lure that Lucy experiences with Stephen to his lack of guilt over his misdeeds, readers will be enraptured by this story that explores the darkest sides of a relationship gone wrong."

– Booklist

A very strong debut; Lovering has not just done great things with her character development, she also has nailed a strong sense of pacing. Lucy has a secret that she only tells Stephen, and Stephen is harboring a secret that could destroy him—one that Lucy will unravel. I already am looking forward to seeing what Lovering writes next.”

– BookReporter

"A winning debut."

– Publishers Weekly

"Fans of Colleen Hoover will devour Lovering's debut that is full of toxic love, secrets, and intense romance."

– Library Journal

If you are searching for a toxic love story (and sometimes you just need one), this is it.

– Levo League

A dazzling new New York voice…[and] a dangerously delicious cocktail of twisted love and infatuation, Tell Me Lies is the perfect cautionary drama to indulge in.”

– The Modern Jetsetter

"Ever wondered what that bad boyfriend was really thinking? You’ll find out in Carola Lovering’s addictive debut. For fans of Jessica Knoll and Caroline Kepnes, Tell Me Lies is a devastatingly accurate portrayal of a toxic relationship. Once its hooks are in, you'll have no choice but to tear through every page."

– Georgia Clark, author of The Regulars

"Tell Me Lies is as dark and daring as it is absorbing. I found myself immediately drawn into the desperation and misguided obsession of young love. Who hasn't, at one point, fallen this hard and gotten this lost?  Carola Lovering has created something unexpected and original, yet deeply familiar."

– Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

“Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities…there are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.”

– Kirkus Reviews

"Riveting. With Tell Me Lies, Carola Lovering has given us a keenly observed, no-holds-barred examination of the mistakes we make under the guise of love. If you've ever fallen for the wrong personand let's be honest, you probably havethis book is for you."

– Grant Ginder, author of The People We Hate at the Wedding

"Tell Me Lies is a daring coming of age tale from a fresh new voice. This unvarnished look at both sides of a toxic romance is as resonant as it is harrowing, with characters so finely drawn they’ll linger in the imaginations of readers long after the final page. This book is unflinching, unforgettable, and unputdownable.” 

– Andrea Dunlop, author of She Regrets Nothing

“Reading Tell Me Lies is a visceral and, at times, unbearably relatable experience that I was utterly unprepared for. Carola Lovering creates a story so deftly handled and characters so believably flawed that you can’t help but become fully immersed. This debut left me gutted and raw in the best kind of way.”

– Corinne Sullivan, author of Indecent