The Truth and Lies of Ella Black
Date Published11 January 2018
Price£ 7.99

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

by Emily Barr

Ella Black’s life is turned upside down when her parents whisk her away from school with no warning and take a flight to Rio de Janeiro. She’s always had a secret to keep, but that has now got an awful lot harder.


Ella Black is an ordinary 17-year-old. She has a happy home life and loving parents, and although she has some hassles at school, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. But Ella is hiding a secret from everyone. While outwardly there’s nothing different about her, inside she hides a dark secret. There’s a side of her that no one gets to see and that side is Bella, or Bad Ella as Ella thinks of her alter ego. Bella does things that Ella would never dream of doing, and at times it can be a struggle to keep other people from knowing about Bella’s existence.

When Bella gets the upper hand one day in class, Ella is summoned to see the headteacher – and her parents are there as well.  Ella thinks it’s all a bit of an over-reaction for cheeking a teacher, but that’s not why her parents are there. They’re whisking Ella away from both her school and her home for a mysterious trip to Rio de Janeiro, ostensibly a work trip for her father. But that doesn’t ring true for Ella and she doesn’t see why a work trip would prevent her from going home to change and say goodbye to her cat. Bella knows there’s something wrong as well, and she becomes increasingly hard to control.

When Emily learns something that has been kept from her all her life, she goes on the run in a strange city, with no money and no one to turn to apart from a boy she met over breakfast in the hotel she’s staying in. Alone and very adrift, Ella has to rely on her own wits – and Bella – to survive.

Emily Barr’s previous YA book, The One Memory of Flora Banks, was both haunting and engaging, and The Truth and Lies of Ella Black maintains the high standards set there. Ella is determined and resourceful and that shines through everywhere. Her thoughts and feelings are often in complete turmoil and Barr does an excellent job of show not tell when it comes to Ella’s hopes and fears.

The book is full of genuine emotion and I immediately fell under Ella’s spell, despite a chilling introduction to what she is capable of when Bella is in the driving seat. The story is told in the first person, with Ella’s own voice shining through at all times. The book is a countdown to a death, but despite that foreshadowing, Emily Barr has plenty of surprises up her sleeve.

Reviewed 12 May 2018 by Linda Wilson