The Tell Me Lies Book Ends With Two Shocking Twists

There are key differences between the book and Hulu’s new show.

Grace Van Patten and Jackson White get close as Lucy and Stephen in Hulu's 'Tell Me Lies.'
Josh Stringer/Hulu

Sometimes a bad relationship just doesn’t want to let go. That’s the main idea behind Hulu’s drama Tell Me Lies, which follows a toxic relationship that unfolds over the course of eight years. It all starts when Lucy Albright (Grace Van Patten) and Stephen DeMarco (Jackson White) meet at college and are immediately drawn to each other. While their story starts out as a typical campus romance, things soon get complicated with their clashing personalities and a mountain of secrets between them — from other love interests to a tragic death on campus. Lucy soon realizes that Stephen is no good for her, yet she just can’t seem to break the addictive cycle of running back to him.

The show is based on Carola Lovering’s novel of the same name. Executive producer and showrunner Meaghan Oppenheimer tells Bustle why she was drawn to Lovering’s book. “I think so many people have been in a relationship like this,” she says. “It felt very personal to me.”

But Oppenheimer adds that while the show does adapt Lovering’s book, there are definitely differences compared to the Tell Me Lies book and ending. “There are a lot of changes. The structure is pretty different. I had to add a lot of plot,” she explains. “The book is wonderful, but it's extremely internal. It's a lot [of] what people are thinking, and you have to find a way to externalize that.” Rather than use voiceovers constantly, Oppenheimer decided to have the characters say one thing but act in a different way so that it’s clear to the audience that “they’re complete lies,” she says.

She also compressed down the book’s many different timelines into just two in order to make the show less visually confusing. But while the details may change, she said there are still “some major plot points that happen in the finale that are from the book” because of how “iconic” they are.

How Does Tell Me Lies End?

If you’re still curious about how it might all end, beware that there are spoilers ahead for the Tell Me Lies book. The novel, similar to the show, begins with Lucy preparing for Bree’s wedding. Then we flash back to Lucy entering her first year of college. Lucy’s happy to be away from her mom, who she has never forgiven for what she calls the Unforgivable Thing. She’s also glad to be away from the town where her childhood friend, Macy Peterson, mysteriously died years before. Macy was the younger sister of Lucy’s first crush, Gabe, and the official report was she died in a car crash after drunk driving. But Lucy has always been suspicious of that account. Macy had told her she wasn’t drinking at that party, and before her death, Macy said she was just leaving early to see a secret new boyfriend. (This is very important to remember later on!)

At school, freshman Lucy meets Stephen, a junior who becomes obsessed with getting her to sleep with him so he can be distracted from his crumbling relationship with his on-and-off girlfriend, Diana. They hook up in secret, but Lucy is heartbroken when she sees Stephen is still very involved with Diana.

Stephen eventually graduates and moves to New York City, and he and Lucy continue their on-and-off secret romance for years, even while Stephen continues to hurt Lucy by dating someone else. In the final chapter of the book, Lucy finally realizes Stephen is no good for her. But even more shockingly, she finally pieces together that Stephen was from the same town that Macy’s secret boyfriend was from. Somehow, she knows Stephen was the boyfriend and that he likely had a hand in her death.

Josh Stringer/Hulu

The reader, meanwhile, already knows at that point that this is the truth; in one of Stephen’s last point-of-view chapters, he admits he was cheating on his girlfriend with Macy. He was the one drunk driving, while Macy gave him oral sex when he totaled her car and killed her. He walked away from her body without telling anyone he was the driver because he didn’t want to disrupt his life and future.

In the end, Lucy sees Stephen at Bree’s wedding and feels nothing for him. When she asks him about Macy Peterson, he lies and tells her he doesn’t recognize the name. Lucy finally walks away from him, truly over him. Meanwhile, she reconciles with her mom; we learn the Unforgivable Thing was that Lucy caught her mom cheating on her dad with Gabe, Lucy’s old crush and Macy’s older brother. Yikes.

The book ends with Lucy and her mom talking amicably on the phone. Lucy says she finally wants to leave New York, do some freelance work, and maybe figure out if she wants to do journalism school and become the writer she always dreamed of being. She tells her mom that at Bree’s wedding, she finally realized that Stephen just saw her as “this source of entertainment — this thing” and now she knows that “I would never want to be that to anybody, not in a million years.”

Additional reporting by Samantha Leach.