Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Are your students looking for inspiration and a fresh perspective? Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman might be the perfect solution. This gripping story of tangled family secrets from a critically acclaimed author is an unbeatable read with many planning possibilities.

In this article, we’ll explore some tips for helping teachers better explore these themes in the classroom to encourage dynamic readings and thoughtfully engaging conversations about real-world issues.

From storytelling strategies to discussion points, let us show you how getting creative with Tell Me No Lies can help foster more vital critical thinking skills in your classrooms!

Related: For more, check out our planning overview for Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill  here.

planning a writing unit

Tell Me No Lies Storyline

Gemma and Mike are incredibly complex characters with troubled backgrounds veiled in deceit and secrecy. For many years, Gemma has been collecting newspaper clippings about mothers after her own ‘died’, feeling isolated from the rest of her family and rarely conversing with anyone else until she meets Mike.

This face is surprisingly familiar to her from one of those same articles. Now determined to confront him, Gemma embarks on an adventure of secrets that will forever challenge their lives. 

On the contrary, Mike’s father tormented and abused him until he and his mother decided to leave home. Unfortunately, as they were about to depart, his dad returned.

In response to this sudden intrusion, Mike pushed over his dad, who then fell unconscious, although Mike thought he was only temporarily knocked out. Months later, it became apparent that due to the coma that Mike caused, his father passed away from its effects.

His guilt was unbearable, knowing he had inadvertently killed someone near and dear to him. With his mother bearing the brunt of the knowledge, she shielded her son from suffering by taking responsibility instead—resulting in her arrest—despite it being unintentional on her child’s part.

While carrying a heavy burden of regret from taking his father’s life, Mike is also guilty that his mother has been incarcerated. To begin anew, he moves in with his grandparents far away and eventually meets Gemma.

His popularity and ability to draw people in easily contrast starkly against her feelings of envy–not only does Mike has an adoring mom and friends who flock toward him without effort.

After perusing an archived collection of newspaper articles, Gemma stumbled upon Mike’s closely-guarded secret and threatened to expose it if he didn’t comply with her requests for money and criminal acts. The ultimatum petrified Mike; his guilt made him sad as he believed Gemma’s viciousness would ruin his future.

However, when the police eventually captured him for theft – a crime she coerced him into committing – Gemma realised what kind of damage she caused another person and desperately sought to interfere before things got worse: finding Mike moments away from jumping off a bridge in despair.

As Mike slowly comprehends, Gemma discloses why she pushed him to take those actions by unveiling her family life. He then informs her who murdered his father and is partially pardoned. Although they are not close pals, they no longer hate each other.

Themes in Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman


The theme of loyalty is a prominent one throughout the novel. Despite their dangerous lifestyle, Kieron’s commitment to his family leads him down a dark path, and Adele must battle against her religious upbringing to protect him. This loyalty theme also ties into friendship, as Adele’s dedication to her friend leads her into risky situations and demonstrates the lengths one will go to for a beloved companion.


Family plays a vital role in both Kieron’s and Adele’s lives. As a son of a gangster, Kieron deals with the pressures put on him by his father while struggling to find acceptance within the criminal underworld. Meanwhile, Adele must reconcile her beliefs with those held by her religious family.


Friendship is another strong theme that runs throughout the narrative. Despite their different backgrounds and upbringings, Kieron and Adele remain steadfast friends despite any obstacles thrown their way. Together they demonstrate how friendship can be greater than class or social differences, ultimately working together to save each other from danger.

Lies & Truths

Throughout Tell Me No Lies, both characters are confronted with brutal truths about themselves and their relationships which require them to confront lies and accept the fact if they wish to survive unscathed. In this way, both characters must come face-to-face with complex decisions as they fight for justice in life-threatening situations.

Critical Themes in Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman

Guilt and Responsibility

At the heart of this story is the heavy guilt Mike has been carrying ever since he inadvertently killed his father. His actions resulted in his mother taking responsibility and eventually getting arrested, making his guilt even more unbearable. As some justice is ultimately served, a lesson on taking responsibility for one’s actions shines through.

Redemption & Forgiveness

When Gemma confronts Mike about his secret past and makes him do her bidding, it’s easy to assume that things have gone too far. But redemption and forgiveness come in unexpected ways when the two characters come clean about everything that had happened before – now able to pick up the pieces and move forward together.

Understanding & Empathy

The events that unfold in “Tell Me No Lies” highlight how understanding and empathy can be powerful tools for overcoming immense pain and suffering. It takes Mike and Gemma listening to each other’s stories from an unbiased perspective before they can begin to accept themselves and one other with kindness.

Key Characters in Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman


Mike is the main protagonist of the story, someone who has had to take on a heavy burden ever since his father passed away due to his actions. As he goes on a journey of self-reflection, Mike also discovers the power of understanding and empathy to come to terms with his guilt.


Gemma is another troubled character who has been haunted by tragedy ever since she lost her mother. She initially meets Mike intending to use him for her benefit, but slowly recognises her actions are wrong. Eventually, Gemma finds herself on a path towards redemption – both for herself and Mike.

Teaching Opportunities from Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman

Understanding & Empathy

The story of “Tell Me No Lies” could be a powerful platform to teach students the value of understanding and empathy. This can be done through discussion-based activities, allowing students to reflect on their own experiences better to comprehend the complexities of the character’s actions.

Literary Devices

The story is also packed with literary devices for teaching literature. For instance, the themes in the report can be highlighted by its many metaphors; while the different narrative styles present throughout can be used to teach students about varying points of view.

Lesson Plan

This lesson plan is designed to help students explore the themes and literary devices in Tell Me No Lies by Malorie Blackman.


  • Copies of the book, “Tell Me, No Lies”.
  • Blank paper/notebooks for student writing.
  • Markers/pens for any visuals the students may want to create.
  • Any other materials needed for activities (e.g., markers for visualising).


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify and discuss critical characters from the story and how they develop over time.
  • Explain how understanding and empathy can aid in personal growth and redemption.
  • Analyse the different narrative styles used in Tell Me No Lies, such as metaphors & dialogue, to comprehend the story’s deeper meanings better.


  1. Introduce the story of “Tell Me No Lies” – discuss what it is about, who are its main characters, etc. (10 mins)
  2. Divide the class into small groups (3 – 4 students per group). Give each group a copy of “Tell Me No Lies” and ask them to identify its literary devices (15 minutes).
  3. After they are done discussing, bring the class together again and have each group share their findings (15 minutes).
  4. Ask students to reflect on how understanding & empathy can aid people on their journey towards redemption and personal growth (20 minutes). Ask them to write down some of their ideas in their notebooks/paper or draw a visual representation (10 minutes).
  5. Wrap up the discussion by having each student share what they wrote/drew with other members of the class (5 minutes)

Website Resources

Literacy Shed Plus

Literacy Shed Plus  is a comprehensive online resource for teachers and students to explore English literacy engagingly and interactively. The site contains free materials on Malorie Blackman’s Tell Me No Lies, including reading comprehension activities, visual resources and writing tasks designed to enrich the learning experience.


Twinkl is an educational platform tailored for children of all ages, providing lesson plans and teaching resources that meet the UK curriculum standards and other topics related to school success. On the platform, teachers can find differentiated reading comprehension activities based on the book “Tell Me No Lies” by Malorie Blackman, allowing them to further develop their student’s knowledge of this text at different difficulty levels.

Yak Books

Yak Books is an online platform dedicated to helping young readers discover new stories through fun, engaging, and educational books. The platform offers free access to Malorie Blackman’s “Tell Me No Lies”, which follows the story of two teens who must confront their secrets after becoming friends. With its captivating characters and thrilling plot twists, this book will indeed be enjoyed by teen readers worldwide!

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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