Genre: #Ownvoices YA Contemporary Mystery
Word Count: 83,219
My MC and MP (main protagonist?) are dressed as: I’m getting some seriously strange looks at this party. Has nobody seen an Asian Beyonce before? I know the curly brown wig’s a little janky, but there are definitely worse costumes here. Like--that guy and girl in the corner. Who comes to a dress-like-your-idol party as Norman and Norma Bates from that Hitchcock movie Psycho? So creepy. And I don’t like how those two keep looking over at me...
Dear Mentors and Agents of NoQS,
Hailed as one of the most diverse institutions in the world, Brookings University is where Amelia Xu plans to spend the best four years of her life. But Amelia’s freshman year is off to a rocky start, between rooming with a dorky, fresh-off-the-boat Chinese cousin and butting heads with a too-Kpop-for-his-own-good dance team leader.
Then, college drama turns deadly when a rash of hate crimes breaks out over campus. International students' nameplates are torn off their doors, the students labeled as terrorists. Violent words of “make America white again” translate into violent ambushes on students of color. Without knowing who's behind these crimes--or if there's more than one criminal--the students at Brookings panic. Race turns on race as fear reveals that the harmony of diversity is nothing more than a mirage.
Amelia becomes determined to unveil the culprit. Meanwhile, she's joined an Asian interest dance group and struggles to embrace her Asian American identity through music, after spending seventeen years wishing she were anything but. Suspicious behavior makes her almost certain she's pinpointed the culprit. But as Amelia soon discovers, enemies are not quite who they seem to be, and catching the criminal might not end the crimes.
Caught in a web of lies, Amelia must expose the true source of the crimes--before someone gets killed.
As a first generation Chinese-American horrified by the surge in hate crimes across college campuses since 2016, I wrote LIES WE TELL as a response to #weneeddiversebooks, to spark conversation about the ways in which we can find love and acceptance even in dark political times.
First 250 Words:
Three hours. One hundred miles. Five mini-meltdowns from my weepy, emotional mother. That was what it took to arrive at my final destination:
Prison. Or--as the rest of the world liked to call it--college.
The thought of making a last-minute escape crossed my mind as I stood underneath the sweltering sun, my suitcases and boxes piled up around me. I stared at the tall, barren white building that stood before me, and felt more apprehensive than ever.
“So what do you think of the dorm, Amelia?” panted Ariana, a college sophomore who’d been assigned to assist with my move-in. She tossed my box of dance shoes into her large blue moving bin. Her voice was chirpy, but the smile she’d plastered on was strained, as cracked as the sun-beaten sidewalk.
“Oh, you know. It’s very...building-like.”
Ariana laughed and straightened, wiping a sheen of sweat off her forehead. “Trust me, all the freshmen dorms are hell-holes. But you’re lucky you live so close to the frats. The students there throw the best parties, and--” Ariana’s face paled, as if she’d let something slip; she glanced nervously at my parents, who were busy taking pictures of everything that stood still long enough. “What I meant to say is that Brookings is like one big party--of education.” A jittery laugh. “Our school ranks among the most diverse and inclusive institutions, with huge communities of international students.”
Ariana sounded like she was reading off a brochure. In fact, I was pretty sure those had been the exact words that screamed out at me on the front cover of my orientation packet: DIVERSE! And INCLUSIVE!